A COUNTY Durham firm is to support manufacturing of up to 60 million doses of a new Coronavirus vaccine.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which employs about 1,100 people at its site in Barnard Castle, will provide ‘fill and finish’ manufacturing capacity to the Novavax Covid vaccine, which is currently being made in Teesside at Billingham's FujiFilm site.

The Northern Echo:

Manufacturing in Barnard Castle will begin as early as May.

Fill and finish, to be provided by GSK, is the completion stage of vaccine manufacturing, preparing vials of the final vaccine and packaging them for distribution and use.

In January, it was confirmed that 60 million doses of the Novavax Covid vaccine would be made at Fujifilm Diosynth in Billingham, near Stockton, after the vaccine passed its UK clinical trial.

Promising new data released earlier this month confirmed the Novavax vaccine is safe and 96 per cent effective at preventing infection against the original strain of Covid.

The Northern Echo:

The GSK site at Barnard Castle, which will deliver the vaccine doses under this collaboration, is a specialised facility in GSK’s global manufacturing network, which supports production of GSK pharmaceutical and vaccine products.  

The Northern Echo:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I’m delighted by GSK’s investment, which shows the strength of UK manufacturing, and will further boost our vaccine rollout.  

"The Vaccines Taskforce has worked hand in glove with business to successfully deliver vaccines to the whole of the UK, and this agreement will continue to support our approach.  

"We remain on track to offer a first jab to all over 50s by 15 April, and all adults by the end of July, and I want to once again encourage everyone to come forward for a vaccine when you’re called.”

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We've all seen just how important onshore vaccine manufacturing capabilities are, and this fantastic deal will ensure more of these vital products can be produced here in the UK. 

"The UK’s vaccination programme has been a national success, with over 30 million people now having received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

"Should the Novavax vaccine meet our medicines regulator’s high standards of safety and effectiveness, the agreement reached today will boost these efforts over the coming months.”

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Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “This is terrific news for County Durham and means the North East will be playing a crucial role in the largest vaccination programme in our history.

“This is an important deal which will help the UK become more self-sufficient by manufacturing extra vaccine doses on our shores.

“The UK’s vaccination programme has been a huge success, with over 33 million jabs administered overall, providing strong protection against this awful virus.

“If the Novavax vaccine meets the high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness of our medicine regulator, the MHRA, this will be an additional weapon in our arsenal to beat the pandemic.

“I urge everybody who is eligible for a vaccine to come forward as soon as possible to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

The Northern Echo:

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This agreement between Novavax and GSK is another critical step in getting the lifesaving Novavax coronavirus vaccine into people’s arms.

“This vaccine will be another weapon in our armoury against this horrible virus 
and I am proud that our hugely talented local scientists and businesses are at the forefront of the global flight against the coronavirus.

“All 60m doses of the Novavax vaccine will be produced at the world-class manufacturing facility developed by Fujifilm Diosynth in Billingham, so it is only fitting that the Teesside vaccine will go through the final stages of the manufacturing process just a few miles away.

“The recent news that the that Novavax jab is effective not only against the original strain of the virus, but also other variants is hugely significant. Hopefully the vaccine will be given the go ahead by the MHRA very soon, once the medical regulator gives it the green light we can start getting the Teesside vaccine into as many arms across the country as possible.”

Roger Connor, President, GSK vaccines, said: “GSK is delighted to support Novavax and the UK Vaccines Taskforce with this manufacturing arrangement for the UK and our Barnard Castle facility is now undertaking the rapid preparation work required to manufacture up to 60m doses of this vaccine.

"We have ensured that we can deliver these volumes without impacting supply of our other vital medicines and vaccines, and without disruption to the other COVID-19 collaborations GSK is engaged in globally.”

Rick Crowley, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, Novavax, said: This partnership with GSK continues the expansion of our global supply network, which we expect to increase overall production capacity and, if approved by regulatory agencies, support access to a potentially important new vaccine against COVID-19.

“We thank the UK government’s Vaccine Taskforce for its instrumental role in ensuring the progress of our COVID-19 vaccine, from both a clinical and now manufacturing perspective, as well as GSK for making their facilities available to help fight the pandemic.”

Earlier this month, the company behind the Novavax jab announced it is 86% effective against the Kent variant and 96% effective in preventing cases caused by the original strain of the coronavirus.

According to results of phase three trial in the UK, the jab offers 100% protection against severe disease, including all hospital admission and death.