UK secures 60 million doses of Novavax vaccine

Adding to the UK’s portfolio of vaccines, multinational pharmaceutical and healthcare firm, Johnson & Johnson announced that they had developed a coronavirus vaccine that is said to be 85% effective against COVID-19’s most severe symptoms.

According to Johnson & Johnson, the one-shot vaccine is also 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe symptoms up to 28 days after injection.

The pharmaceutical company is now researching whether two doses of its vaccine will offer stronger or longer-lasting protection against the virus.

It’s thought that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be offered to younger age groups and, described as the ‘jab and go’ vaccine, is said to be available from July.

The news comes as a fourth vaccine developed by American vaccine development firm, Novavax, of which the UK has ordered 60 million doses.

COVID-19 vaccine trials

UK expected to deploy Novavax vaccine from June

According to data collected in large-scale British trials, the Novavax vaccine is 96% effective against the coronavirus. It also offered 86% protection against the new UK variant, which medical experts have said is 70% more transmissible than the original strain.

The UK government has secured 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, set to be manufactured at a site in northeast England and needs to go through the ‘fill and finish’ phase, with the deliveries expected from June.

While both the Novavax and Janssen vaccines are awaiting rollout, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the former would likely be deployed in the second half of 2021, providing it passes the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) standards.

Britain has approved three versions of a coronavirus vaccine, one from Moderna, a second from Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

According to Pfizer/BioNTech, their jab offers more than 90% protection against COVID-19. In comparison, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is shown to have an efficacy rate of 70%, and Moderna’s injection is approximately 92% effective against the virus.

The Novavax vaccine – which will be administered in two doses – was seen to be 89.3% in protecting against the coronavirus during the final phase of UK trials. According to the company, tests were carried out on more than 15,000 people from different countries aged 18 – 84, who were 27% above 65 years-old.

Novavax also tested the vaccine on participants who had contracted the South African variant and found that it offered up to 60% protection against the virus in volunteers without HIV.

Novavax Chief Executive, Stan Erck, described the results as “spectacular”, expressing particular excitement over the vaccine’s efficacy against the South African COVID strain, which he said went “above expectations”.

Meanwhile, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed that the fourth vaccine would be “another weapon in the UK’s arsenal to beat this awful virus.”

Medical experts, scientists and health professionals are particularly pleased by the vaccine’s effectiveness against mutant strains of COVID-19, following concerns raised over new variants of the virus being vaccine-resistant.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment, Nadhim Zahawi, who had taken part in Novavax’s trials also expressed his excitement over the excellent results.

Approximately 30 million of the UK’s most vulnerable people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, which boosts hopes of a sharp recovery in the country. Many believe vaccine rollouts are the answer to exiting the coronavirus pandemic and be on track for Boris Johnson’s roadmap strategy, which aims to lift restrictions from 30th June.

However, the UK’s vaccine arsenal has sparked a bitter row between Brussels and London. The EU, which has been criticised for its laggard vaccine rollout, is now facing an extreme shortage of supplies after AstraZeneca backtracked on its commitment to deliver 100 million doses in Q1.

EU misses March vaccination target

The EU, which have been notoriously slow in their vaccination rollout, have failed to reach their target of vaccinating 80% of their elderly population by March. During Q1 of 2021, 107 million doses were delivered to EU member states, 89 million of which have been put to use.

Tensions have risen between the UK and EU this year over the UK’s lack of vaccine exports to the EU. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claimed that AstraZeneca is legally bound by its contract to deliver 100M COVID-19 vaccine doses to the EU by March-end and should make up for the shortfall by exporting vaccines from UK factories.

It comes as the pharmaceutical firm agreed to publish a redacted version of its contract with the European Union, after stating that it would not be able to deliver more than 31M doses in the first three months of the year.

President Von der Leyen ignored AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot claims the UK government had “first dibs” on doses produced by the firm and Oxford University.

She demanded the company deliver on its promises, especially as the EU had already paid for the vaccines upfront, which totalled EUR 336M (GBP 298M).

AstraZeneca attributed the shortage in supply to manufacturing problems at the Belgian plant; however, the Commission President insisted that this should be made up for by importing vaccine supplies from UK factories.

The UK has inoculated over 95% of those aged over 60, whilst the EU continue to fall behind. The vaccine shortage across the bloc has forced many of its member states to suspend vaccination programmes.

Earlier this year, Spain has halted its vaccine rollout in Madrid, while hospitals in Paris and the surrounding region were forced to stop vaccinating its citizens until February 2nd.

European Council President Charles Michel urged the European Commission to explore legal options that could block vaccine exports out of the bloc to ensure the EU secures the much-needed vaccine supplies.

The European Commission is expected to unveil an export authorisation system that would allow member states to stop vaccines being exported out of their country, which has raised concerns over the UK running out of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

An export ban would likely threaten the UK’s access to the Pfizer vaccine, which it has a contract to receive 40M doses. With COVID-19 cases in Britain still dangerously high, this could also increase pressure on the NHS.

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