The UK government is continuing its COVID-19 vaccine buying spree. Having already struck deals to source 250 million doses of four different vaccines, the UK has now entered into two additional agreements.
Novavax landed the larger of the two deals in volume terms. The UK government is set to purchase 60 million doses of the US company’s adjuvanted protein vaccine NVX-CoV2373.
As part of the deal, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies has agreed to make the NVX-CoV2373 antigen at a site in the UK. Novavax expects Fujifilm to make enough antigen for up to 180 million doses a year at the UK site, likely leaving it with excess supplies that it can sell overseas.
The Fujifilm agreement is one of a number of pacts Novavax has entered into in recent months to boost its global manufacturing capacity. Takeda has signed up to make up to 250 million doses annually as part of a deal granting it Japanese rights to the NVX-CoV2373, and Novavax expects Serum Institute of India to make upward of 1 billion doses a year starting in January.
Novavax put the deals in place while still working to show NVX-CoV2373 is safe and effective. The UK government is supporting that effort, too, by signing up to work with Novavax on a phase 3 trial that is expected to enroll 9,000 adults in the country starting in the third quarter.
The UK government disclosed news of the Novavax agreement alongside details of a pact with J&J. The J&J agreement grants the UK government access to an initial 30 million doses of Ad26.COV2.S, a replication defective adenovirus vaccine, with an option to buy a further 22 million doses down the line.
With J&J and Novavax both lagging a little way behind the leaders in the COVID-19 vaccine race, the UK government thinks it will be mid-2021 until it receives shipments of the products.
The government may already have enough vaccines to immunize everyone in the UK by then. Two of the COVID-19 frontrunners, AstraZeneca and the BioNTech-Pfizer alliance, are set to provide the UK with 130 million doses between them.
As the UK population is 66 million, those two deals alone could support a two-dose vaccination of the entire country. Factoring in all the deals, the UK could vaccinate everyone in the country many times over, particularly if a single dose of J&J’s shot is shown to be effective.
That assumes all the vaccines are found to be safe and effective. Experience of other phase 3 trials suggests some of the studies will fail, leading the UK to hedge its bets by sourcing six products from four vaccine classes.
“The government’s strategy to build a portfolio of promising vaccine candidates will ensure we have the best chance possible of finding one that works,” said Alok Sharma, the UK business secretary.