£29m boost for Covid battle in bid to speed up development of vaccines that protect against new virus variants
- Government concerned third virus wave could be triggered by new variant
- Matt Hancock is investing £29.3m in series of new laboratories in Wiltshire
- They develop vaccines that protect against virus variants much more quickly
Vaccines that protect against new virus variants will be developed much more quickly thanks to a major new research hub, Matt Hancock has pledged.
The Health Secretary is investing £29.3million into a series of new laboratories at the Porton Down research centre in Wiltshire.
Government officials are concerned a third virus wave could be triggered by the emergence of a new variant that cannot be protected by vaccines in use now.
While scientists are confident existing vaccines provide some protection against the Kent and South African variants, little is known about their effectiveness against others, including the Brazilian and Indian variants.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) is investing £29.3million into a series of new laboratories at the Porton Down research centre in Wiltshire, which will mean vaccines that protect against new virus variants will be developed much more quickly
The money will quadruple the number of tests carried out each week at the site of potential new vaccines – from 700 to 3,000.
It currently takes several months from a variant being identified to a jab being developed that protects against it and is safe.
But officials hope this wait will be slashed to several weeks. The first jabs capable of protecting against the South African variant and potentially others are likely to be ready in September or October.
Mr Hancock said: ‘The UK has proven itself to be a world-class force in the production of Covid-19 vaccines, with the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax and Valneva vaccines all researched, developed or manufactured on British soil.
Dr Jenny Harries said they expect the existing vaccines to offer protection against new variants but it is important they continue to monitor the picture as it develops
‘This multi-million pound funding for a state-of-the-art vaccine testing facility at Porton Down will enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants.’
He insisted: ‘We are committed to supporting the UK’s flourishing life sciences industry.’
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘While we expect the existing vaccines to offer protection against new variants – particularly preventing serious illness and death – it is important that we continue to monitor the picture as it develops.’