UK clinches COVID-19 vaccine deals with J&J, Novavax

The UK government on Friday said it reached two more agreements to secure early access to potential COVID-19 vaccines, this time with Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. One of the deals is for an initial sale of 30 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's Ad26.COV2.S on a not-for-profit basis for emergency pandemic use, with the option for an additional purchase of up to a 22 million doses, while the second agreement is for the purchase of 60 million doses of Novavax's NVX-CoV2373.

If the vaccines are found to be safe and effective in clinical testing, the government indicated that both could be delivered to the UK in mid-2021. "They would be given first to priority groups such as frontline health and social care workers, ethnic minorities, adults with serious diseases, and the elderly," it added.

The UK has also agreed in principle to co-fund an additional Phase III study exploring a two-dose regimen of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine that will run in parallel to the Phase III trial investigating a single-dose regimen. A Phase I/IIa study of Ad26.COV2.S is currently ongoing in healthy volunteers in the US and Belgium, while planning is underway for the late-stage programme.

Meanwhile, the government will also be supporting a Phase III study of NVX-CoV2373, which Novavax said is slated to start in the third quarter. "Our Phase III clinical trial in the UK will be a critical component to assess the efficacy of NVX-CoV2373," remarked Novavax CEO Stanley Erck. The company also plans to manufacture some of the vaccine using FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies' facilities in Stockton-on-Tees, which the UK government says "will ensure that, once available, the vaccine can be supplied to the British public as soon as possible."

Deals for six vaccines

According to the UK government, it has now secured access to six different COVID-19 vaccine candidates, across four different vaccine types, for its population of roughly 67 million. These include 60 million doses of an adjuvanted vaccine being developed by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, plus 100 million of the AZD1222 candidate co-developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. The government also made advance purchase deals for 90 million doses of two candidates being developed by Valneva, as well as an alliance between Pfizer and BioNTech.

In addition, the government said a deal with AstraZeneca will provide the UK with access to treatments containing COVID-19 neutralising antibodies to protect those who cannot receive vaccines, such as cancer and immunocompromised patients.

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