Covid UK: GlaxoSmithKline to ‘fill and finish’ 60million doses of Novavax vaccine

Boris Johnson tonight revealed GlaxoSmithKline will support the manufacturing of up to 60million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine in the UK.

No10’s vaccines taskforce has signed a deal with British drugs giant GSK to ‘fill and finish’ supplies of the American jab at its factory in Durham starting from May.

Mr Johnson said the move will ‘further boost our vaccine rollout’, which is slow down next month due to a a shortfall of five million AstraZeneca jabs from India.

The decision comes amid a vaccine war between the UK and EU which has seen the bloc threaten to block supplies of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines made on the continent from being shipped to Britain. 

The GSK deal means the Novavax jabs will not have to leave the UK. The raw chemicals are being produced at a site in Stockton-on-Tees, but the original plan was for the vials to be prepared and packaged in Europe.  

Britain has secured 60million doses of the two-shot Novavax vaccine under an advance purchase agreement with the American firm, enough to fully vaccinate 30m Brits. Earlier this month Novavax announced its jab was 89 per cent effective at blocking symptomatic illness and stopped 100 per cent of hospital admissions and deaths.  

The Prime Minister told tonight’s Downing Street press conference: ‘I’m delighted by GSK’s investment, which shows the strength of UK manufacturing, and will further boost our vaccine rollout.

‘The vaccines taskforce has worked hand in glove with business to successfully deliver vaccines to the whole of the UK and this agreement will continue to support our approach.

‘We remain on track to offer a first jab to all over-50s by April 15, and all adults by the end of July, and I want to once again encourage everyone to come forward for a vaccine when you’re called.’

Novavax is due to submit its late stage trial data to Britain’s medical regulator in the coming weeks and approval is expected in May. So far three vaccines have been approved by the MHRA – made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna – and a fourth developed by Johnson and Johnson is currently under review.

Britain already has enough doses on order from AstraZeneca and Pfizer alone to vaccinate the entire nation with two doses. But officials anticipate ‘booster’ shots will need to be given annually to the elderly and vulnerable because immunity wears off quicker in those groups.

Boris Johnson tonight revealed the British drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline will support the manufacturing of up to 60million doses of the Novavax vaccine in the UK

Britain has secured 60million doses of the Novavax vaccine under an advance purchase agreement with the American firm

Britain has secured 60million doses of the Novavax vaccine under an advance purchase agreement with the American firm

Britain has secured 60million doses of the Novavax vaccine under an advance purchase agreement with the American firm 

The GSK site at Barnard Castle is a specialised facility in GSK's global manufacturing network which supports production of GSK pharmaceutical and vaccine products

The GSK site at Barnard Castle is a specialised facility in GSK's global manufacturing network which supports production of GSK pharmaceutical and vaccine products

The GSK site at Barnard Castle is a specialised facility in GSK’s global manufacturing network which supports production of GSK pharmaceutical and vaccine products

In other coronavirus developments today: 

  • Pfizer says it plans to drastically ramp up production and is prepared to break with German firm it partnered with on breakthrough vaccine;
  • Health workers are 90 per cent less likely to catch Covid after they receive two doses, according to US-based study on Pfizer and Moderna jabs;
  • Fewer than 60 per cent of black Britons over-70 have had their Covid vaccine, while the rate is 91 per cent among white adults, ONS data reveals;
  • Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin says jabs passports would be the ‘last straw’ for many struggling pubs;
  • And amid loosening lockdown restrictions to allow three people from two households to meet, the Government confirms long-distance trips to the seaside are allowed;
  • France won’t be added to the UK’s ‘red list’ of travel countries from which arrivals are subject to hotel quarantine rules, it has been claimed;
  • Matt Hancock says trips abroad ‘may well’ happen this summer sparking hope getaways will still be allowed.

Cheers to Happy Monday! Britons head to beauty spots in their droves to enjoy evening drinks as lockdown is eased 

Britons were seen enjoying a tipple in the sun today as the nation raised a glass to the easing of lockdown restrictions on the hottest day of the year so far.

England has stepped out of lockdown straight into a three-day spring heatwave, with temperatures hitting 66.2F (24C) this afternoon and a predicted 76F tomorrow and Wednesday – just shy of the record.

A top temperature of 67.3F was recorded at Heathrow Airport this afternoon – marking a high point for 2021. The all-time UK record temperature for March was 78.1F on March 29, 1968 in Mepal, Cambridgeshire.

It came as Boris Johnson warned Britons ‘don’t risk the progress we’ve made’ as he said it was ‘vital’ to continue abiding by social distancing rules, as police vowed to continue cracking down on large gatherings.

As of today – six people, or two full households – are allowed to meet outside, including in back gardens, for the first time in four months, while the Government’s ‘stay at home’ rule has been replaced with ‘stay local’.

People have also been quick to take advantage of the reintroduction of outdoor sports, with golfers, tennis players and outdoor swimmers already out in force – while others took to Twitter to announce their plans to have drinks.

Weddings can also go ahead, and Ben and Gabriela Lloyd were the first couple to get married at St Albans registry office today.

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The Novavax jab differs from those already being used in the UK. It combines a genetically engineered protein that causes a weakened version of Covid with a plant-based ingredient to help generate a stronger immune response.

Novavax says people should be given two doses of the vaccine, three weeks apart. The vaccine, officially named NVX-CoV2373, can be stored in a regular medical fridge.

The site at Barnard Castle is a specialised facility in global manufacturing network which supports production of GSK pharmaceutical and vaccine products.

The protein antigen component of NVX-CoV2373 is also produced in the North East of England by Novavax’s manufacturing partner, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, at their site in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees.

Roger Connor, president of GSK vaccines, said: ‘GSK is delighted to support Novavax and the UK vaccines taskforce with this manufacturing arrangement for the UK and our Barnard Castle facility is now undertaking the rapid preparation work required to manufacture up to 60 million doses of this vaccine.

‘We have ensured that we can deliver these volumes without impacting supply of our other vital medicines and vaccines, and without disruption to the other Covid-19 collaborations GSK is engaged in globally.’

It came as Britain’s daily Covid cases dropped 13 per cent in a week with 4,654 more infections today. 

Deaths have risen slightly to 23 — up from 17 last Monday. But the Department of Health’s official fatality toll relies on registrations, meaning day-to-day counts can fluctuate.

Experts would be baffled by any genuine spike in deaths because infection rates have not spiralled out of control since schools in England reopened on March 8. The mammoth vaccine drive, which has now reached 30.4million vulnerable adults, will also save thousands of lives.

Mr Johnson today warned Britons ‘don’t risk the progress we’ve made’, as England stepped out of lockdown straight into a three-day spring heatwave, with temperatures hitting 66.2F (24C) this afternoon and a predicted 76F tomorrow and Wednesday – just shy of the all-time record of 78F. 

Meanwhile, Professor Chris Whitty warned tonight that Britain’s ‘wall of vaccination’ against Covid is ‘leaky’ because jabs aren’t 100 per cent effective and millions have still yet to be fully inoculated, 

England’s chief medical officer acknowledged the wall — designed to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed and thousands from dying in the event of a third wave — will get stronger when top-up doses are dished out en masse in April.

But when asked if the UK was really at risk of enduring a third wave when lockdown restrictions are eased over the coming months, Professor Whitty said it is ‘not complete’.

England’s chief medical officer acknowledged the wall — designed to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed and thousands from dying in the event of a third wave — will get stronger when top-up doses are dished out en masse in April

Flanked by Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance, Professor Whitty also warned it was 'inevitable' infections would rise when restrictions are relaxed over the coming months. He claimed reopening schools in England has already caused Covid cases to flatten off

Flanked by Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance, Professor Whitty also warned it was 'inevitable' infections would rise when restrictions are relaxed over the coming months. He claimed reopening schools in England has already caused Covid cases to flatten off

Flanked by Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance, Professor Whitty also warned it was ‘inevitable’ infections would rise when restrictions are relaxed over the coming months. He claimed reopening schools in England has already caused Covid cases to flatten off

Large crowd of young people have gathered in Hyde Park, Leeds, to bask in today's sunshine as lockdown measures were eased and the Rule of Six returned

Large crowd of young people have gathered in Hyde Park, Leeds, to bask in today's sunshine as lockdown measures were eased and the Rule of Six returned

Large crowd of young people have gathered in Hyde Park, Leeds, to bask in today’s sunshine as lockdown measures were eased and the Rule of Six returned

A group of friends enjoy drinks in beautiful spring weather in St James's Park, central London today as the rule of six was reintroduced

A group of friends enjoy drinks in beautiful spring weather in St James's Park, central London today as the rule of six was reintroduced

A group of friends enjoy drinks in beautiful spring weather in St James’s Park, central London today as the rule of six was reintroduced 

Britain’s ‘wall of vaccination’ against Covid is ‘leaky’, Professor Chris Whitty warns 

Britain’s ‘wall of vaccination’ against Covid is ‘leaky’ because jabs aren’t 100 per cent effective and millions have still yet to be fully inoculated, Professor Chris Whitty warned tonight.

England’s chief medical officer acknowledged the wall — designed to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed and thousands from dying in the event of a third wave — will get stronger when top-up doses are dished out en masse in April.

But when asked if the UK was really at risk of enduring a third wave when lockdown restrictions are eased over the coming months, Professor Whitty said it is ‘not complete’.

Addressing the country from Downing Street‘s new £2.6million White House-style press briefing room, he said: ‘It’s a kind of a leaky wall, and, therefore, there will always be some people who either have chosen not to be vaccinated, or where the vaccine has had much less effect.’

Flanked by Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance, Professor Whitty also warned it was ‘inevitable’ infections would rise when restrictions are relaxed over the coming months. He claimed reopening schools in England has already caused Covid cases to flatten off.

Pointing to Sir Patrick’s slide that showed how vaccines drastically cut the risk of being hospitalised with Covid, Professor Whitty said it showed ‘we do have kind of a wall of vaccination that will get stronger with the second vaccines.   

‘But it is not a complete wall, it is a kind of leaky wall. Therefore, there will always be some people who either have chosen not to be vaccinated, or where the vaccine has had much less effect. 

‘If we get a small surge, there will be cases of people who have been vaccinated who will have severe disease, and there will be cases of people who are not vaccinated, a much higher proportion, who will get severe disease, and some of those will go on to die.’

Professor Whitty added: ‘If you get a very big wave, that would obviously lead to a significant impact. 

‘So that’s the reason why the Prime Minister and ministers have been absolutely determined that this is a slow and steady unlocking, looking at data between each step.’ 

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Addressing the country from Downing St’s new £2.6million White House-style press briefing room, he said: ‘It’s a kind of a leaky wall, and therefore there will always be some people who either have chosen not to be vaccinated, or where the vaccine has had much less effect.’

Flanked by Mr Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance, Professor Whitty also warned it was ‘inevitable’ infections would rise when restrictions are relaxed over the coming months. He claimed reopening schools in England has already caused Covid cases to flatten off. 

Pointing to Sir Patrick’s slide that showed how the rate of coronavirus hospitalisations among four different age groups would be drastically lower if everyone was vaccinated, Professor Whitty said ‘we do have kind of a wall of vaccination that will get stronger with the second vaccines.

‘And I want to repeat my emphasis it is critical people get their second vaccine.

‘But it is not a complete wall, it is a kind of leaky wall. Therefore, there will always be some people who either have chosen not to be vaccinated, or where the vaccine has had much less effect.

‘If we get a small surge, there will be cases of people who have been vaccinated who will have severe disease, and there will be cases of people who are not vaccinated, a much higher proportion, who will get severe disease, and some of those will go on to die.’

Professor Whitty added: ‘If you get a very big wave, that would obviously lead to a significant impact. 

‘So that’s the reason why the Prime Minister and ministers have been absolutely determined that this is a slow and steady unlocking, looking at data between each step.’

Despite the gloomy warning that Britons could still die because vaccines aren’t a panacea, the Prime Minister said he could ‘categorically rule out’ another national lockdown. 

But he admitted that his promise came with ‘two very important provisos’, calling on Britons to keep obeying the guidance and making sure the current vaccines being deployed remain effective. 

More than 30.4million Britons have now had their first dose of a Covid vaccine, with 3.7million fully jabbed. 

Sir Patrick’s slide showed how the rate of coronavirus hospitalisations among four different age groups would be drastically lower if everyone was vaccinated.

For example, at the current rate of infection No10’s top scientists predict there would be almost 30 people out of every 100,000 Brits aged between 55 and 64 hospitalised with Covid over the next four weeks. With everyone in that age group vaccinated, it would plunge to six.

He said the data showed that vaccines are ‘very effective at reducing hospitalisations in everyone who gets them’, urging everyone eligible for a jab to book an appointment. 

However, he cautioned that jabs currently being deployed in Britain are not 100 per cent protective and that the modelling was based on current rates of infections.

Sir Patrick said: ‘If the rates were much higher then obviously the amount of hospitalisations would be higher, which reinforces the point that the thing that we all must do is try to keep rates down and be sensible as we unlock and get back to more interaction.’ 

Novavax coronavirus vaccine – everything you need to know 

The Government has agreed a deal with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on the manufacture of up to 60 million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine.

Here is what we know:

– How does the vaccine work?

The Novavax vaccine works like other vaccines by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the coronavirus spike protein.

Researchers inserted a modified gene into a virus, called a baculovirus, and allowed it to infect insect cells.

Spike proteins from these cells were then assembled into nanoparticles which, while they look like coronavirus, cannot replicate or cause Covid-19.

These nanoparticles are then injected into the body via the vaccine where the immune system mounts an antibody response.

If the body encounters coronavirus in the future, the body is primed to fend it off.

The vaccine is given as two doses.

– Are there advantages of the Novavax vaccine?

Yes. While the jabs from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures, the Novavax jab is stable for up to three months in a normal fridge.

– How effective is the vaccine?

According to results of a phase three trial in the UK, announced in March, the jab offers 100 per cent protection against severe disease, including all hospital admission and death.

It is 86 per cent effective against the Kent variant, the company behind it said, and it is also 96 per cent effective in preventing cases caused by the original strain of the coronavirus.

The study in the UK enrolled more than 15,000 participants aged between 18 and 84, including 27 per cent over the age of 65.

In participants 65 years of age and older, 10 cases of Covid-19 were observed, with 90 per cent of those cases occurring in the placebo group.

– Where is it made?

The protein antigen component of the vaccine is produced in the North East of England by Novavax manufacturing partner, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, at its site in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees.

GSK announced on Monday that it will provide ‘fill and finish’ manufacturing capacity – preparing vials of the final vaccine and packaging them for distribution and use – at its Barnard Castle facility, also in the North East, beginning as early as May.

It said the ‘rapid technology transfer’ between the two companies will begin immediately.

– Has the Novavax vaccine been approved?

Not yet. A rolling review is under way by the (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) MHRA to assess the vaccine.

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