GlaxoSmithKline Plc is set to manufacture as many as 60 million UK doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from Novavax Inc as the Government looks to shore up supplies amid tensions with the European Union.
The British pharmaceutical company will provide the fill-finish capacity — putting the vaccine into vials and packaging — for the Novavax shot at its Barnard Castle site in Durham, England, Glaxo said in a statement Monday. Novavax is expected to apply for UK approval of its vaccine in the second quarter, with production at the Glaxo plant starting as early as May.
The drug substance for the shot is also being manufactured in the north-east of England by Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies UK Ltd. The deal was put together by the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce, which agreed to purchase 60 million doses from Novavax last year.
The agreement has the potential to reduce the UK’s reliance on overseas vaccine supplies amid a spat with the EU over exports. The bloc has fallen behind peers in vaccination rates, inoculating about 10 per cent of its population, compared with 45 per cent in the UK and about 28 per cent in the US, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker. EU leaders gave their guarded support to plans to restrict vaccine exports last week after it emerged the bloc had sent more shots to the rest of the world than to its own residents.
Glaxo’s investment “shows the strength of UK manufacturing and will further boost our vaccine roll-out,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement. “We remain on track to offer a first jab to all over 50s by April 15, and all adults by the end of July.”
Novavax’s shot was found to be 96.4 per cent effective against mild, moderate and severe symptoms of the disease in a final analysis of its late-stage UK trial released earlier this month. The company also released final results from a mid-stage trial in South Africa that showed the vaccine was 55.4 per cent effective against a variant circulating there that’s been shown to partially elude the protection of some shots.
The Glaxo-Novavax partnership is the latest effort to pair vaccine front-runners with big pharmaceutical companies to help boost production capacity. Glaxo also announced last month that it was supporting the manufacture of up to 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from Germany’s CureVac NV.