As the blame game gets underway in Brussels over the EU's sluggish vaccination programme, the UK government has fresh reason for cheer: a new coronavirus jab. The Novavax vaccine has successfully completed its phase three trials — finding it to be 89 per cent effective in large-scale UK trials. This data will now be passed to the MHRA to assess whether the vaccine can be approved for UK use. While the vaccine is thought to be highly effective against the Kent strain of Covid, it is less effective against the South African variant. While it still offers some protection, Novavax is following Moderna's lead in developing a booster shot to tackle this.
Should it get the green light, the UK government’s Vaccines Taskforce has secured 60 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine which would be delivered in the second half of the year. These doses are due to be manufactured in the UK — using Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’s facilities in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees. Meanwhile, two members of the government – vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi and Treasury minister Kemi Badenoch – were participants in the trials leading up to this point.
With the EU considering export restrictions on vaccines leaving the continent for the UK, this means that there ought to be no such supply issues this side of the Channel. This should ensure that, once approved and produced, the vaccine can be supplied to the British public as soon as possible.
Vaccines Taskforce chief Kate Bingham said this morning on the Today programme that the UK had been 'at a disadvantage in terms of size and buying power so the way we chose to address that was by being nimble, and as co-operative and supportive as we possibly could be'. That approach is paying off. Even with the EU threatening supply, ministers are confident that their vaccination programme will remain a success story.
Find the most up-to-date figures and graphs at The Spectator's Covid-19 data tracker: data.spectator.co.uk