A cutting-edge vaccine production factory will be capable of inoculating the entire UK population against any future coronavirus variants within months, its chief executive claimed tonight.
The Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (VMIC) will add significant firepower to Britain's immunisation infrastructure when it launches later this year.
Dr Matthew Duchars, who will oversee the Oxfordshire hub, told The Telegraph: 'We'll be able to make 70million doses within a four to five month period, enough for everyone in the country'.
The Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (VMIC) will add significant firepower to Britain's immunisation infrastructure when it launches later this year
John Meech receives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at a Superdrug pharmacy in Guildford
Britain is pressing ahead with the biggest jab roll-out in its history, and experts behind the Pfizer and Oxford shots are confident their doses will be effective against the more transmissible strains that have been detected.
But the VMIC could prove crucial to inoculating against possible dangerous mutations of the virus.
Dr Matthew Duchars, who will oversee the Oxfordshire hub
Dr Duchars said: 'New Covid variants are absolutely part of the thinking... You never know what's coming next.'
Construction of the £158million project was fast-tracked by the Government when Covid-19 hit British shores early last year.
The 7,400 sqm site at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus will allow the UK to be self-sufficient in vaccine production and not have to rely on overseas supplies.
The Pfizer and Oxford doses are being shipped from Belgium and the Netherlands, meaning they are at risk to supply chain breakdown.
Dr Duchars told the Telegraph the VMIC would give Britain 'a sovereign capability' to develop and manufacture vaccines.
He added the factory would also be able to adapt its production to other potential viruses, shoring up Britain's long-term pandemic defences.
More than 3.5million people have been vaccinated so far in the UK, with the over-80s, care home residents, the extremely vulnerable and frontline health staff the first in line.
The Prime Minister visited the construction site of the VMIC in September
The Government has set a target of giving the first dose of the vaccine to the 14million most at-risk people by mid-February.
Boris Johnson has urged the public to stick to tough lockdown rules while the vaccination rollout ploughs forward, paving a path through the pandemic.
The Prime Minister visited the construction site of the VMIC in September.
Stating its mission objective, the VMIC says on its website: 'VMIC will bridge the gap between research and expertise in development and manufacturing so that new vaccine products can enter clinical development, which is a value driver in terms of attracting funding for further development, partnering with the pharmaceutical industry for development to launch and contract manufacturing.
VMIC will also enhance UK preparedness and response capabilities for producing vaccines against emerging infectious diseases by allowing the UK government to use the facility and staff during an outbreak identified as a public health emergency of international concern.'