UK government rubberstamps millions of extra COVID vaccines

The UK government has placed a 114 million-dose order with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – sufficient to provide two doses to every person in Britain – in a bid to future-proof against COVID-19 variants. 

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced the move as researchers race to uncover the effect of existing vaccines on the Omicron variant, which was first identified by scientists in South Africa.

Up to 60 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which may include authorised booster doses, were given the green light. Up to 29 million doses are expected to be delivered in 2022, and up to 31 million doses expected to be delivered in 2023.

The UK government retains the right to increase those purchases in 2022 and 2023 by up to 20% above the contracted volumes, or to decrease them by the same proportion. Additionally, the government has secured an extra 54 million Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.

The supply for the current rapid drive to have every adult in the country vaccinated with two doses of a COVID vaccine, plus a booster, by the end of January 2022, is in hand.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, said: “We thank the UK government for their support in this supply agreement for our mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and booster candidates, if approved, in 2022 and 2023. This agreement reflects the efforts of the UK government to address the ongoing pandemic and builds on our existing collaboration to protect people in the UK.”

Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla, who today rubbished rumours that his wife had died as the result of a COVID vaccine, said people would need an annual COVID vaccine booster to “maintain a very high level of protection.”

He also hit back at claims that this was a mercenary move – Pfizer stands to profit by billions of pounds from its COVID vaccines – by saying that billions of lives have been saved, as well as trillions of dollars, which would have seen economies come crashing down had it not been for the vaccine.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca researchers say they have pinpointed the trigger that has led to extremely rare blood clots among some people taking its vaccine.

A protein in the blood – platelet factor 4 – is attracted by a key part of the vaccine, which they believe precipitates an immune chain reaction that can lead to a clot. This is known as a vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT).

AZ’s Welsh labs have been given emergency funding to delve further into this exceptionally uncommon outcome.

Since its rollout, the AZ vaccine has prevented 50 million cases of COVID globally and has saved more than one million lives, the company states.

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