Britain has now signed it’s fourth Covid-19 vaccine deal, as the race continues to find a safe and effective vaccine by the end of the year.
No vaccine has yet been approved to treat or prevent coronavirus, however in the unlikely event that all deals provide a successful outcome, the Government could have access to 250 million doses of the treatment.
If successful, the Covid vaccine will be promptly offered to priority groups including frontline health workers.
On Wednesday it was announced that the UK Government has agreed a supply deal for up to 60 million doses of a possible Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline.
Human clinical studies of the vaccine are scheduled to begin in September followed by a phase 3 study in December.
Commenting on the latest news, Business Minister Alok Sharma said: “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.
“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.”
Roger Connor, president of GSK Vaccines, added: “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.”
The latest deal marks the fourth vaccine arrangement signed by the British government, but what other deals have been agreed and will it be possible to get a vaccine by Christmas?
What deals have been agreed?
The Government has stressed the importance of investing in a broad range of vaccines, to improve the chances of a successful outcome.
Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the Government’s Vaccines Taskforce, has 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.”
What progress has been made in the hunt for a successful vaccine?
On July 20, the first human results from the Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine trial were described as a “major breakthrough” by the government.
The full results, published in the Lancet, showed that initial trials on 1,077 British adults found that the vaccine induced strong antibody and T-cell responses.
The discovery is promising because separate studies have suggested that antibodies may fade away within months while T-cells can stay in circulation for years.
There were found to be no serious adverse events, and minor side effects could be controlled by paracetamol.
The Oxford vaccine trial is one of more than 170 candidates now in development.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that US based biotech firm Moderna has given the first doses of its experimental doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to participants in its 30,000 person trial.
When will the vaccines be ready to public use?
Professor Adrian Hill, the director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, has said that Oxford Covid-19 vaccine could be ready by December if enough people are recruited for trials by the beginning of September.
“It’s possible there will be a vaccine being used by the end of the year,” he said. “What that needs is enough cases, probably about 50,000 people to be in trials by six weeks time, including the very large US trial and to have an adequate incidence, and of course the vaccine has to work.
“But, you know, if it worked by early November – and it might be a little before that – you might have emergency use authorisation in a month, and then you would be deploying in December.”
Business Secretary Alok Sharma has also confirmed that pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca had finalised a “global licensing agreement” with Oxford University with Government support, adding: “This means that if the vaccine is successful AstraZeneca will work to make 30 million doses available by September for the UK as part of an agreement for over 100 million doses in total.”