The UK has announced several funding pushes to help scale potential vaccines to the novel coronavirus, primarily by putting funding behind a joint University of Oxford-AstraZeneca project to produce doses for global recipients.
However, the UK government has decided that with this vaccine candidate having been developed in the UK that its own citizens would be prioritized.
In a speech on Sunday, UK business secretary Alok Sharma stated that the country’s population would be the first to receive the vaccine and that the government had reserved 30 million doses for this purpose.
The stance reflects similar attempts by the US government to link financial aid with access to an eventual vaccine, a stance that French firm Sanofi first acquiesced to only to withdraw after facing backlash in its own country.
Funding to leading vaccine candidate
A day after Sharma made the announcement, it was revealed that Oxford University and AZ would receive £65.5m ($80.1m) to enable manufacture of the vaccine.
The aim is for AZ to produce 100 million doses to be delivered worldwide.
The vaccine at the heart of the deal has already entered Phase I clinical trials. If early trials are successful, late-stage trials could begin by the middle of the year and there may be data available by the fall.
Alongside the funding for this candidate, the UK also provided £18.5m to Imperial College London for the development of its RNA vaccine. The university has plans to reach human trials in June.
Vaccine manufacturing center
Beyond the vaccine candidates, the UK also provided two further cash injections for the ongoing construction of the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre.
This will see £93m be provided to the center in order to accelerate construction, with plans to open the space in summer 2021, bringing the completion date forward by a year.
In the meantime, whilst the facility is finished, the UK government has provided £38m to establish a ‘rapid deployment facility’ that is able to manufacture at scale from summer of this year.
According to UK research and innovation chief executive, Mark Walport, the center will work with both of the teams at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London to manufacture their vaccine candidates.