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UK signs deals with J&J, Novavax for COVID-19 vaccine supplies

The latest agreements bring Britain’s total number of doses secured to 362 million for a population of 66 million

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The UK will buy potential COVID-19 vaccines from US pharma companies Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. Britain and the US are in the lead with six vaccine deals with drugmakers each.

The latest agreements bring Britain’s total number of doses secured to 362 million for a population of 66 million, and Britain said both vaccines could be available by the middle of next year for priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers, ethnic minorities, adults with serious diseases, and the elderly. The deals cover a wide range of vaccine types currently in development for COVID-19.

“The Government’s strategy to build a portfolio of promising vaccine candidates will ensure we have the best chance possible of finding one that works,” British business minister Alok Sharma said in a statement.

Johnson & Johnson said its Janssen Pharmaceutica unit will supply Britain with its candidate, known as Ad26.COV2.S, with an initial sale of 30 million doses on a not-for-profit basis for emergency pandemic use.

The advance purchase agreement will also provide an option for an additional purchase of up to 22 million doses, it said.

Separately, Novavax said Britain would buy 60 million doses of its vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373. Novavax will manufacture some of the vaccine using Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies facilities in Stockton-on-Tees, northern England.

Alex Harris, head of global policy at the Wellcome Trust health charity, said the deals put Britain in a strong position and urged the government to explain how it will now ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for poorer countries too.

“Without this…the risk increases that other rich countries will seek to strike similar bilateral deals, potentially … leaving insufficient volumes of vaccine for the rest of the world,” Harris said in a statement.

The Janssen vaccine uses an adenovirus technique to ferry coronavirus proteins into cells in the body, while the Novavax shot uses a technology known as recombinant nanoparticle to produce antigens – molecules that are designed to spur the immune system into action.

Recent studies show the odds of an experimental vaccine making it from early testing in people to regulatory approval are roughly one in three.

(Edits by EP News Bureau)

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