Vaccine approval
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LONDON: Britain has signed deals to secure 90 million doses of two possible COVID-19 vaccines from an alliance of Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, and French group Valneva, the business ministry said on Monday.

Britain secured 30 million doses of the experimental BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, and a deal in principle for 60 million doses of the Valneva vaccine, with an option of 40 million more doses if it was proven to be safe, effective and suitable, the ministry said.

With no working vaccine against COVID-19 yet developed, Britain now has three different types of vaccine under order and a total of 230 million doses potentially available.

“This new partnership with some of the world’s foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies will ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk,” business minister Alok Sharma said.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The deals follow a previously announced agreement with AstraZeneca for the firm to produce 100 million doses of its potential vaccine being developed in partnership with the University of Oxford.

Britain said it was the first such deal which Pfizer and BioNTech had agreed for the supply of their vaccine, which is being tested in early to mid stage trials.

The firms are aiming to make up to 100 million doses by the end of this year and potentially more than 1.2 billion doses by end of 2021, if the vaccine is successful.

It uses the so-called messenger RNA approach, in contrast to the more traditional, inactivated whole virus vaccine being developed by Valneva.

Valneva’s potential vaccine is still in pre-clinical trials, and the company is aiming to move into clinical trials by the end of 2020.

Britain also said on Monday it had secured treatments containing COVID-19-neutralising antibodies from AstraZeneca (AZN.L) to protect people who can’t be vaccinated.

Valneva deal

Fance's Valneva is in talks with the European Union about supplying the bloc with its possible COVID-19 vaccine, Chief Executive Thomas Lingelbach said on Monday after striking a deal with Britain.

Britain said on Monday it had agreed in principle to buy 60 million doses of the Valneva vaccine, with an option to purchase 40 million more if it proved safe, effective and suitable.

"We are talking to the EU," Lingelbach told Reuters after the British agreement was announced. He gave no further details.

Two sources told Reuters on Friday the EU was negotiating advance purchase deals of potential COVID-19 vaccines with drugmakers Moderna, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson, as well as biotech firms BioNTech and CureVac.

On Monday, Britain, which left the EU this year and which has not joined the bloc's vaccine scheme, also secured early access to BioNTech's vaccine it is developing with Pfizer.

Valneva's Lingelbach said Britain was at the head of the queue for doses of its vaccine if it worked. "My personal working hypothesis is that the first 60 million go into the UK," he said, although he said details were still being negotiated.

Valneva is aiming for clinical trials of the vaccine to start in November or December this year, Lingelbach said. The vaccine uses an adjuvant, or booster, by Dynavax.

The timetable is slower than some others, but he said the company's traditional, inactivated whole virus technique could prove more effective than newer messenger RNA (mRNA) approaches used by BioNTech and Pfizer.

"No one can predict how the mRNA approaches are going to deliver going forward," he said. "It takes a bit longer to develop those vaccines on the more conventional side. But we believe that those vaccines have a nice prospect."