It is understood that the business department would buy the vaccine should it prove effective in human trials, which are due to start in September.
According to the deal, GlaxoSmithKline would supply the adjuvant, while Sanofi would provide the antigen. The UK government would pay the money in stages as the vaccine progresses. The final payment would be made on delivery.
The UK, which imports most vaccines, is at risk of being left behind if other countries buy up limited supplies. "The government has anticipated this and is pre-ordering COVID-19 vaccines,” revealed a source.
The deal is expected to be announced in the coming days.
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