United Kingdom

French drugs firm 'days away' from making 60million doses of Britain's FOURTH coronavirus vaccine

It will furnish Britain with 60 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine – our second largest supply after the Oxford-AstraZeneca injection – but is yet to strike a deal with the EU or its native France.

Now French drugs firm Valneva is just ‘days away’ from kick-starting manufacture of its jab on British soil, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

In a major boost for the UK’s vaccination drive, the company’s boss said he hopes Valneva’s Covid jab will be approved and ready to be administered into British arms by the summer or early autumn.

French drugs firm Valneva is just ‘days away’ from kick-starting manufacture of its jab on British soil, The Mail on Sunday can reveal

Chief executive Thomas Lingelbach said Valneva’s vaccine, which has been produced with financial aid from the UK Government, is about to go into mass production at its plant in Livingston, Scotland.

Britain has secured supply of 60 million doses at a cost of €470 million (£418 million) – enough to vaccinate 30 million people.

Valneva’s jab is administered in two doses 21 days apart – like Pfizer-BioNTech’s – although it does not require ultra-cold storage. Early trials are taking place on 150 volunteers at four sites across England. The UK has the option to order up to 130 million further doses between 2022 and 2025, which would bring the cost to nearly €900 million (£800 million).

The French-headquartered firm’s jab is the second-largest Covid vaccine ordered by Government, after the 100 million dose Oxford-AstraZeneca jab. By contrast, the European Commission last week said a period of ‘exploratory talks’ with Valneva had concluded ‘with a view to purchasing its potential vaccine against Covid-19’. The EU is likely to order 30 million doses, with the option to buy a further 30 million.

The French-headquartered firm’s jab is the second-largest Covid vaccine ordered by Government

However, the UK will be the ‘priority’ for Valneva, its boss said, leaving France, Germany and other countries in the bloc likely to receive their deliveries of the vaccine later. Valneva has previously said that its jab, which entered clinical trials in December, would not be available for use in the UK population until the last three months of the year.

However, Mr Lingelbach said conversations were under way with regulators to discuss the possibility of releasing the treatment at some point between July and September.

He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We are days away from starting the commercial manufacturing… We cannot release it without regulatory approval so we’re in a little bit of a Catch-22 situation and there are certainly scenarios that we are currently discussing with the regulators… But we have already signed up to give priority to the UK and this is something we’re currently working on.’

In a major boost for the UK’s vaccination drive, the company’s boss said he hopes Valneva’s Covid jab will be approved and ready to be administered into British arms by the summer or early autumn. Pictured: A woman has Oxford/AstraZeneca in Much Wenlock, Shropshire

The Government faced criticism last year for being under-prepared to deal with a mass viral outbreak across the country.

Mr Lingelbach said the investment in its Scottish plant had helped Britain bolster its defences against potential future pandemics. Crucially, he said he was confident that the injection would defend against mutant strains of Covid.

‘You can apply the identical manufacturing process for different virus mutations but also for other viruses that you need to be prepared for in the future,’ he said.

The next new Covid-19 vaccine available will be the jab from America’s Moderna which was approved by UK regulators earlier this month. The UK has ordered 17 million doses of it.

CALLED WOLFGANG? HAVE A JAB!

More than four in five French people are unhappy about the sluggish roll-out of the country’s Covid vaccination campaign.

A survey by Le Figaro newspaper reveals widespread disquiet over President Emmanuel Macron’s handling of the programme, with 81 per cent of the population dissatisfied with progress.

Latest figures reveal that France has given the jab to 388,730 people – just 0.58 per cent of the populace. Across the EU as a whole, only 1.25 people per 100 have received a vaccine, compared to 5.42 per 100 in the UK. The UK vaccinated as many people last Thursday alone as France had in total.

Germany’s roll-out has also lagged behind expectations with a shortage of doses. Only 1.15 Germans per 100 have received a dose. Some German regions have been forced to guess people’s ages from their first name because of local privacy laws. Authorities in Lower Saxony wanted to send letters to all residents aged over 80 to invite them to make vaccination appointments. But they have been blocked from using official records and have resorted to trying to guess people’s ages.

Officials have settled on sending out letters to people called Wolfgang or Waltraud because they are more common names among the older generation. Politicians in Germany have accused the EU Commission of bungling the procurement programme. European countries have been forced to play catch up after a slow initial roll-out of the vaccine.

Most countries are only able to rely on the Pfizer vaccine and a few tens of thousands of doses of the Moderna vaccine that has just been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Football news:

Real Madrid is ready to listen to proposals for Varane if contract negotiations do not start by the summer
Antonio Cassano: Juve bought Ronaldo to win the Champions League, but the results got worse. They took Serie A without him
Manchester United could buy Pau Torres from Villarreal. Kunde from Sevilla is too expensive
Lautaro Martinez: I negotiated with Barca, but that's in the past. I will sign a new contract with Inter
Miguel Veloso: Ronaldo is like Jordan, he's a legend. Cristiano will be the best scorer in the history of football
Dallas Hara forward: If Messi goes to MLS, I will kiss his feet
Manchester United are ready to consider offers for De Gea and Martial. Henderson wants to leave if the Spaniard stays