The UK government announced on Monday it has secured an additional 40 million doses of Valneva vaccine which will be manufactured in Scotland.
In September, the UK had signed a partnership with Valneva, a biotech company headquartered in France, for its COVID-19 vaccine, VLA2001.
Under the agreement, if vaccine development was successful, Valneva was to provide the UK government with 60 million doses in the second half of 2021.
It said at the time the UK was also investing up-front in the scale up and development of the vaccine.
The deal announced today takes the total number of Valneva vaccines the UK has secured to 100 million, and the UK now has “early access to over 400 million total doses of vaccines for 2021 and 2022.”
The decision to purchase 40 million extra doses is based on the UK’s strategy to take a “wide approach,” it said using different technologies and viral targets to ensure the UK has the best chance of securing access to successful vaccines as quickly as possible.
It will also give the UK future flexibility “should we need to revaccinate any of the population,” it added.
The UK government has invested a “multi-million sum” in Valneva’s manufacturing facility in West Lothian in Scotland, which began manufacturing vaccine doses last week.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Valneva’s site in Scotland will be a vaccine production powerhouse, working flat out to ensure we can quickly deploy jabs across the UK if their candidate is approved, while supporting top quality, local jobs.”
Watch: COVID-19 - UK orders 40 million more doses of Valneva vaccine
The site is already supporting 100 new highly-skilled local jobs for scientists and technicians. It wil have the capacity to produce up to 250 million doses annually.
Valneva’s coronavirus vaccine candidate is currently in phase I/II trials and will still need to meet the necessary safety and effectiveness standards and receive regulatory approval from the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before it is rolled out at the end of the year.
However, if it is approved, manufacturing at risk now will mean that the UK can roll the vaccine out “across the country quicker,” the government said.
Health secretary Matt Hancock noted that, “the Valneva vaccine showcases the best of Scottish expertise right at the heart of our UK vaccine endeavour, demonstrating the strength of our union and what the UK can achieve when it works together. If the vaccine is authorised by the health regulator, it will be rolled out across the four nations as quickly as possible.”
The UK said it is the largest donor to the COVAX facility, the global mechanism to help developing countries access a coronavirus vaccine, and has committed £548m ($752m) in UK aid to help distribute 1.3 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines to 92 developing countries this year.
To date, the UK government has invested over £300m into manufacturing a successful vaccine.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s row over coronavirus vaccine supplies reached new heights on Friday evening after the bloc’s decision to briefly override parts of the Brexit deal.
It quickly reversed its move to control the export of COVID-19 jabs into Northern Ireland (NI) following widespread condemnation from the UK, NI and Ireland.
Despite the U-turn, the EU insisted it had “no choice” but to go ahead with introducing export controls on vaccines.
The controversy also came amid a row between the continent and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca (AZN.L) over delays in deliveries of vaccine doses to the 27 member nations.
A record 598,389 first vaccinations were given on Saturday (30 January), government figures show, taking the total number of people who had received their first jab to 8,977,329.
21,088 positive coronavirus cases were identified on Sunday (31 January).
Watch: PM defends decision to visit Scotland