DRUGS giant AstraZeneca will make 30 million doses of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine by September if it works – and the UK will be the first to get it.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma announced yesterday evening that a global licensing deal had been signed between Oxford University and the pharma firm as part of a £130million plan to vaccinate half the UK population.
Alok Sharma this evening announced plans to vaccinate half the UK’s population
Oxford scientists have already begun their first trials in humans
The firm will make 100 million doses of the vaccine over time if it proves to prevent the infection – and half of Brits would be in line to get one.
In order to succeed “as soon as possible,” Mr Sharma announced a fresh £84m in cash for the two universities to scale up production of their ground-breaking potential vaccines.
£65.5 million is earmarked for Oxford and £18.5million for Imperial.
That’s on top of £47m already handed out to scientists who are racing for a cure to the disease raging across the world.
This will mean the UK will be the first country to get access to the Oxford vaccine, should it be successful.
Oxford has finished its first phase of human trials this week – with everyone planned having received their vaccine doses on schedule.
Imperial are on track to start their trial in June, with a second one by October.
It came as:
- Boris Johnson vowed to gradually make it easier for Brits to see their family and friends
- As he revealed Britain has met three out of five tests to start lifting lockdown measures
- The UK recorded the lowest level of deaths today since the 24 March – of just 170 since yesterday
Business Secretary Mr Sharma said: “Our scientists are at the forefront of vaccine development. This deal with AstraZeneca means that if the Oxford University vaccine works, people in the UK will get the first access to it, helping to protect thousands of lives.
“The agreement will deliver 100 million doses in total, ensuring that in addition to supporting our own people, we are able to make the vaccines available to developing countries at the lowest possible cost.
“The UK continues to lead the global response to find a vaccine, and the government is backing our scientists to do this as quickly as possible.”
And Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “Our injection of a further £84 million for a #coronavirus vaccine is a great step forward in our national effort.”
However, Boris Johnson has been stark with the public – admitting we may not get a vaccine.
He’s said in the past: “A mass vaccine or treatment may be more than a year away. Indeed, in a worst-case scenario, we may never find a vaccine.”
Alok Sharma announced the funding boost this evening
However, Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is working on a vaccine with a team at the university, is confident it will work and says it could be ready in just months.
As the nation faces the reality of living for months with coronavirus restrictions, a successful vaccine holds the key to the end of isolation measures.
Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment available for Covid-19 but doctors across the globe are testing current anti-viral drugs to see if they can beat coronavirus.
On Sunday, Mr Sharma revealed that six more drugs would go into tests to see if they can have an effect on coronavirus symptoms.
About 100 research groups are pursuing vaccines with nearly a dozen in early stages of human trials or poised to start.
Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, for example, has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to developing a vaccine through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.