UK orders 90m vaccine doses from Pfizer, Valneva

GENEVA • The UK has signed agreements to buy 90 million doses of vaccines in development by drugmakers including Pfizer Inc, BioNTech SE and Valneva SE.

The government said it has secured access to three different vaccine candidates, and it is setting up a programme seeking 500,000 volunteers to participate in clinical trials.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to supply 30 million doses of their vaccine candidate this year and next, the companies said in a separate statement. They will seek approval as early as October and could produce as many as 100 million doses by the end of this year.

The UK described the order as that alliance’s first binding agreement with any government.

“It’s the right thing to be doing, to be at the absolute front of the queue to make sure we’re in a position to get those vaccines first when they become available,” Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the BBC during the government’s media round yesterday.

The US has been supporting Pfizer and BioNTech’s efforts through its US$10 billion (RM42.60 billion) Operation Warp Speed research programme. The vaccine uses a new technology called messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), which spurs the body to create specific proteins with its own cells. Valneva’s experimental product is further behind and relies on technology it is used in another vaccine.

The UK, a nation of 66 million people, already struck a supply agreement for a vaccine being tested by AstraZeneca plc with the University of Oxford. It also said yesterday that it ordered treatments containing antibodies that neutralise Covid-19 from AstraZeneca. The company’s shares rose as much as 5.2% to a record in London trading ahead of news from a clinical trial of the experimental vaccine.

France’s Valneva rose 7.7% in Paris trading, while BioNTech’s surged 6.7% in Germany.

Valneva agreed to supply The UK with 60 million doses of the shot it’s developing, and another 40 million if the product proves safe and effective.

Unlike the AstraZeneca and Pfizer collaborations, Valneva isn’t in the lead of the coronavirus vaccine race, but the French company would manufacture the product at its factory in Livingston, Scotland. The experimental shot will enter clinical studies by the end of the year. Valneva said it expects The UK government to help fund the research. — Bloomberg