A fourth Covid-19 vaccine could be approved for use in the UK within weeks as late-stage trials suggested it was 89 per cent effective in preventing coronavirus.
The UK has secured 60 million doses of the Novavax jab – to be produced on Teesside – which is believed to offer protection against the new UK and South African variants.
It was shown to be 89.3 per cent effective at preventing coronavirus in participants in its Phase 3 clinical trial in the UK, which involved more than 15,000 people aged between 18-84, of which 27 per cent were older than 65, Novavax said.
The vaccine will now be assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed, as he thanked volunteers who made the results possible.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS stands ready to roll out the vaccine if it is approved, which he said would provide a “significant boost to our vaccination program and another weapon in our arsenal to beat this awful virus”.
The chairman of the Government’s Vaccine Taskforce, Clive Dix, said the results were “spectacular”, adding: “The efficacy shown against the emerging variants is also extremely encouraging.
The jab has shown around 60 per cent effectiveness against the South African variant, which has been worrying scientists due to concerns vaccines may not work against it, but it offered 86 per cent protection against the new UK strain.
Two vaccines have already been rolled out in the UK – from Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca – while a third from Moderna has been approved for use.
The Novavax jab would be delivered in the second half of 2021 if it receives MHRA approval.
The development came amid a deepening row between the European Union and AstraZeneca over vaccine supply shortages in the bloc.
Brussels has demanded doses be sent from British plants to make up for a shortfall, but Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the Government will not allow vaccines intended for the UK to go to the EU.
German MEP Dr Peter Liese warned the UK it would be acting like former US president Donald Trump if it pursued a “UK first” contract for the vaccines.
“That’s why we have a huge problem. For the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, there are two plants. One in the EU and one in the US. And the US doesn’t export even to Canada. Everything comes from the European Union.
“We cannot be the only one who plays fair in this game. If others say, ‘UK first’, ‘US first’, then we have to say, ‘EU first’, but I hope – I really hope – this will be sorted out and everybody will get its fair share.”
Meanwhile the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to approve the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the EU on Friday, although it is not yet clear whether it will set an age limit.
German authorities have said there is currently “not sufficient data to assess the vaccination effectiveness from 65 years”.
But Public Health England (PHE) said data on the immune response for those aged 65 and over had been “reassuring”.
The Prime Minister also argued that the evidence shows that the vaccine “provides a good immune response across all age groups”.