Britain was on course to secure another 60million Covid jabs last night after the latest UK-backed vaccine cleared a crucial hurdle.
US biotech firm Novavax announced its vaccine had successfully completed its phase three clinical trials in the UK, paving the way for regulators to give final approval in the coming weeks.
Under a deal with the Government, 60million doses of the vaccine will be produced on Teesside for use in this country, in what could prove to be another triumph for Britain’s world-leading vaccine programme.
Novavax last night said the trials had shown its vaccine was 89.3 per cent effective.
The trial is the first to be completed since the emergence of the new variant of the disease in Kent. Preliminary analysis suggests the vaccine was 85.6 per cent effective against this mutation.
The two-shot vaccine still requires final approval from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. But Whitehall sources said that, if the regulatory process goes smoothly, the jabs could start coming on stream this summer, allowing a huge acceleration in the drive to inoculate all adults by the end of September.
Last night, Boris Johnson tweeted: ‘Good news that the Novavax vaccine has proved effective in UK trials.’
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘Having taken part in Novavax’s vaccine trial myself, I am particularly thrilled to see such positive results.’
The progress of the Novavax vaccine represents another success for the UK’s Vaccines Task Force, which has left the EU scrambling to catch up. A sluggish regulatory process in Brussels has meant only the Pfizer vaccine has so far been approved for use in the EU. The bloc’s vaccine drive has been plunged into crisis, with Brussels embroiled in a bitter stand-off with Astra-Zeneca after the Anglo-Swedish firm said it could only supply a fraction of the 100million does it had allegedly promised.
On another dramatic day:
- The PM flatly rejected Germany’s decision not to give the AstraZeneca jab to people over 65;
- The EU ordered a raid on AstraZeneca’s Belgian plant in a bid to prove it was lying about vaccine production problems;
- Brussels prepared to unveil powers that could see the shipment of millions of vaccine doses to Britain blocked;
- The British Government warned the EU it would not share its supply until everyone aged over 50 has been vaccinated here;
- Nicola Sturgeon was accused of undermining efforts to prevent the EU from taking British vaccines by threatening to publish details of confidential supplies;
- French health authorities suggested they were already struggling with shortages;
- Figures showed cases continuing to fall in across England and among all age groups;
- It emerged the tier system could be scrapped after lockdown under plans to ease restrictions on a national basis;
- Models and social media influencers were among thousands of British travellers facing a desperate race home to avoid being stranded in Dubai and Abu Dhabi;
- A sensational £1.25million in a single day was raised for Mail Force to help pupils;
- Health leaders warned social care was in danger of an imminent collapse without a government action plan.
- It emerged children could be invited to take part in summer schools to help them catch up on months of missed education.
Pictured: Boris Johnson tried his hand at one of the tests as he visits the French biotechnology laboratory Valneva in Livingston, Scotland, where they will be producing a Covid-19 vaccine on a large scale on Thursday
Pictured: Pharmacist Bhaveen Patel gives a dose of the Oxford / AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Brian Bourne at a coronavirus vaccination clinic held at Junction Pharmacy in Brixton, London, on Thursday
Last year, Novavax said pre-clinical trials showed its potential vaccine produced ‘robust antibody responses’. The firm announced plans for the critical phase three trials in the UK in September last year.
It recruited 15,000 volunteers. Of these, around a quarter were aged over 65 – a far higher proportion than tested in trials of the Oxford vaccine.
Half the volunteers were given two shots of the vaccine, while the rest were given a placebo.
Last night, the firm said some 62 people in the study came down with Covid-19 with symptoms after receiving either the vaccine or placebo. Of these, six had received the vaccine and 56 had the placebo.
US biotech firm Novavax announced its vaccine had successfully completed its Phase Three clinical trials in the UK, paving the way for regulators to give final approval in the coming weeks (stock image)
England, Wales and Northern Ireland gave out 284,954 Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday, official figures show, as the drive to immunise the UK is off its 400,000-a-day target needed to reach 15 million by mid-February
Among sick patients, about half were infected with the new variant.
Experts believe both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs are also effective against the Kent variant. A separate Novavax trial in South Africa found the vaccine was only 49.4 per cent effective against the dangerous new variant which has emerged there.
If approved, the Novavax vaccine would be the fourth jab given the green light in the UK. British regulators have also approved the US-made Moderna vaccine, which is expected to come on stream this spring.
Under the terms of the Novavax deal, UK supplies will be manufactured at the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies factory in Billingham.
EU threatens an export ban on vaccines: AztraZeneca factory raided over shortage claims
By JOHN STEVENS IN LONDON AND JAMES FRANEY IN BRUSSELS FOR THE DAILY MAIL
Brussels will unveil dramatic new powers today that could see the shipment of millions of vaccine doses to Britain being blocked within days.
As the row over the EU jabs shortage intensifies, the European Commission will establish a mechanism to allow member states to refuse vaccine exports.
The move will heighten fears about whether Britain’s expected supply of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine – which is manufactured in Belgium – could be disrupted. Britain has ordered 40 million doses.
It came as Belgian health authorities revealed they had been sent into an AstraZeneca factory in the town of Seneffe where doses of its vaccine are being made. The commission requested the inspection due to doubts over the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical firm’s explanation for its shortfall in deliveries to the bloc.
‘We want to see if what we are being told is correct or not,’ one EU official said.
Pictured: Novasep, the European production site of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in Seneffe, Belgium
The EU has been left furious by AstraZeneca’s announcement that it would have to cut deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine to the bloc by 60 per cent because of production problems. Brussels has raised questions about whether doses from the factory have secretly been shipped to Britain.
That has led to the EU to reconsider whether jabs being manufactured on the continent should be allowed to leave while it is suffering a supply crisis.
As a result, under the proposals to be finalised today, customs authorities in EU countries will have to notify the commission every time jabs are being sent outside the bloc.
An EU official said: ‘There is a possibility in certain circumstances not to allow the export to move forward. We want to ensure we have a say about where these vaccines are ending up.’
The official insisted that a refusal would happen only in ‘rare cases’ when companies were failing to fulfil their contractual commitments to the EU.
‘In an ideal world, we would not be here. In an ideal world, the whole story of vaccination would run smoothly without any problems. But unfortunately we are not in an ideal world, and we have seen over the last weeks that not all works well,’ the official said.
EU officials have demanded that Covid vaccines made in the UK be exported to Europe to help plug shortfalls in its own jabs roll-out, which is among the slowest in the world and is lagging well behind Britain
‘That’s why, and given the circumstances around with certain states around the world, even in our neighbourhood, acting in terms of restrictions of exports, even banning exports for certain products, I think we need to be up front, and we need to react.’
The criteria for blocking exports will be published today, with the mechanism expected to come into force within days.
European Council president Charles Michel, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, yesterday backed the use of legal measures to protect the bloc’s vaccine supply. In a letter to the leaders of four member states, he wrote: ‘The EU needs to take robust action to secure its supply of vaccines and demonstrate concretely that the protection of its citizens remains our absolute priority.’
The EU is facing a shortfall in supply of vaccines after AstraZeneca warned Brussels last week that problems with production in Belgium meant the bloc will receive only a quarter of the 100 million doses it had expected to receive in the first three months of this year.
French health authorities are already struggling with shortages. A number of regions across the country yesterday cancelled first-jab appointments that were due to be held in early February, postponing them by at least a month.
German health minister Jens Spahn said the country was likely to face a shortage of vaccines until at least April.
Spain’s Madrid and Cantabria regions have also stopped first vaccinations and are using remaining doses to administer second shots to those who have had the first one.
Portugal, where infections and deaths have spiked to record levels after Christmas, said delivery delays meant that people who have top priority – including health professionals – will all be fully vaccinated by April, around two months later than initially planned. The Netherlands will also struggle to execute its vaccination programme.