The UK government on Wednesday announced an early access agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur for an estimated 60 million doses of an experimental new vaccine being tested to combat COVID-19.
The agreement with Britain's GSK and France's Sanofi, which combined have among the largest vaccine manufacturing capabilities in the world, will supply the UK with 60 million doses of their vaccine based on existing DNA-based technology used to produce Sanofi’s flu vaccine.
While it remains uncertain as to which, if any, of the anti-coronavirus vaccines under various stages of development around the world will ultimately work, the British government said the latest deal helps grow the country’s portfolio of vaccine candidates and adds to previous agreements.
"Our scientists and researchers are racing to find a safe and effective vaccine at a speed and scale never seen before. While this progress is truly remarkable, the fact remains that there are no guarantees,” said UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma.
"In the meantime, it is important that we secure early access to a diverse range of promising vaccine candidates, like GSK and Sanofi, to increase our chances of finding one that works so we can protect the public and save lives,” he said.
If the GSK and Sanofi vaccine candidate is proven effective in human studies, the UK could be able to vaccinate priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased health risk, as soon as summer 2021. Human clinical studies of the vaccine will begin in September followed by a Phase 3 study in December 2020.
With the latest announcement, the government said it has now secured early access to four different types of immunisation and a total of 250 million doses, giving the UK the “most likely chance of finding a safe and effective vaccine at the quickest speed”.
Kate Bingham, Chair of the government's Vaccines Taskforce, said: “This diversity of vaccine types is important because we do not yet know which, if any, of the different types of vaccine will prove to generate a safe and protective response to COVID-19. Whilst this agreement is very good news, we mustn’t be complacent or over optimistic.
"The fact remains we may never get a vaccine and if we do get one, we have to be prepared that it may not be a vaccine which prevents getting the virus, but rather one that reduces symptoms.”
Thomas Triomphe, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Sanofi Pasteur, said the company is collaborating with several countries and global organisations as part of ongoing efforts to ensure a “safe and effective vaccine” is available to everyone as quickly as possible.
"We believe that this adjuvanted vaccine candidate has the potential to play a significant role in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the UK and around the world. We thank the UK government for confirmation of purchasing intent, which supports the significant investment we are already making as a company to scale up development and production of this vaccine,” added Roger Connor, President of GSK Vaccines.
Earlier this month, the British government announced it had secured 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses thanks to partnerships with the BioNTech / Pfizer alliance and Valneva.
A deal has also been agreed to secure access to treatments containing COVID-19 neutralising antibodies from AstraZeneca, to protect those who cannot receive vaccines such as cancer and immunocompromised patients.
This is in addition to an existing global licensing agreement signed with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to research, develop and manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine for the UK public. AstraZeneca will work to produce 100 million doses for the UK in total.
The latest agreement comes as the government confirmed that almost 72,000 people have volunteered to receive information about participating in future vaccine studies following the launch of the NHS COVID-19 vaccine research registry last week. The aim is to get 500,000 people signed up by October to enable large-scale clinical studies.
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