The news was announced by business secretary Alok Sharma today (Monday, July 20). The government has formed partnerships with vaccine manufacturers BioNTech/Pfizer and Valneva, as well as covid-19 neutralising antibodies from AstraZeneca to protect people who cannot be vaccinated, such as those with compromised immune systems.
It is hoped these doses of three different vaccines, which are currently in development, will be sufficient to protect priority groups such as people at increased risk from the virus and frontline care workers.
The government has also launched the NHS Covid-19 vaccine search registry, which allows people to volunteer for vaccine studies. At least 500,000 volunteers will be needed by October to allow large scale studies to take place and greatly improve the speed of research.
The developers of symptom study app ZOE are also working with the government to help run these studies.
Mr Sharma said: “The hunt to find a vaccine is a truly global endeavour and we are doing everything we can to ensure the British public get access to a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible.
“This new partnership with some of the world’s foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies will ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk.
“The public can also play their part in vaccine research through the new NHS vaccine research register. By signing up and participating in important clinical studies, together we can speed up the search for a vaccine and end the pandemic sooner.”
Valneva’s factory in Livingston will also be expanded with government support, enabling it to produce up to 100 million doses for UK and international distribution. This will also create high-skilled jobs for the local area.
Another facility under construction in Oxfordshire will also be producing vaccines from summer 2021. The £93 million Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre will manufacture doses at scale.
Chair of the Vaccine Taskforce Kate Bingham said: “The Vaccine Taskforce is investing in a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates to maximise the chances of finding a vaccine quickly that meets the UK’s rigorous regulatory and safety standards.
“The fact that we have so many promising candidates already shows the unprecedented pace at which we are moving. But I urge against being complacent or over optimistic.
“The fact remains we may never get a vaccine and if we do get one, we have to be prepared that it may not be a vaccine which prevents getting the virus, but rather one that reduces symptoms.”
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty added: “Thanks to Covid-19 patients’ willingness to take part in treatment studies, we’ve been able to identify treatments that work and ones that don’t, which has improved patient care world-wide.
“Now that there are several promising vaccines on the horizon, we need to call again on the generosity of the public to help find out which potential vaccines are the most effective.
“Using a new NHS website developed in partnership between the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and NHS Digital, people across the UK can register their interest to be approached to join a vaccine study. Please go to the website and consider volunteering.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “A safe and effective vaccine is our best hope of defeating coronavirus and returning to life as normal.
“We have some of our best scientists and researchers working on this, but members of the public have a vital role to play too. So I urge everyone who can to back the national effort and sign up to the NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry to help find a vaccine as soon as possible.
“Every volunteer will be doing their bit towards finding a vaccine for Covid-19 that will have the potential to save millions of lives around the world and bring this pandemic to an end.”
AstraZeneca is also working with the University of Oxford to create 100 million doses of covid-vaccine for the UK public as well as Imperial College London which began studies with human participants last month.
The UK has also invested £250 million in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations – the largest single investment of any country – to support affordable and fair access to vaccines and treatments around the world.