THE manufacturer drafted in to produce a North East-made coronavirus vaccine has responded after concerns over the impact of delays were last night raised.

Fujifilm Diosynth, which has been working on the Novavax jab, has said manufacturing at its plant in Billingham, near Stockton, remains "unaffected" despite delays.

It comes as the Government was urged to provide clarity on whether those working on the jab would be "safeguarded" after it emerged the vaccine was yet to be submitted to regulators, and may not be ready until next year.

Read more: Fears around 300 North East workers at risk after delays to Novavax Covid vaccine

But responding to concerns, the manufacturer said it would actually be increasing the number of staff working on Teesside and appeared to offer assurances jobs would be safeguarded.

It is understood around 300 workers began round-the-clock shifts in Billingham to work specifically on Novavax back in February as production on the jab officially began.

In a statement to The Northern Echo, a spokesperson said: "At Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies we are committed to growing our presence on Teesside, investing in our facilities and people and continue to look for the best and brightest talent.

"We will be increasing our headcount in the years to come."

Fujifilm said that the production of Novavax "continued" as part of its contract, which remain unaffected by delays in the approval of the jab, while saying it is also working on a number of other projects.

The spokesperson added: "The manufacture of the antigen component of the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine candidate is just one of many projects we're currently working on at our site.

"This manufacturing continues to progress as part of our contract with Novavax and is unaffected by the timeline or status of approval."

Yesterday, Labour MP for Stockton North, Alex Cunningham said: “I’m pleased that those who stepped forward for Novavax trials are now able to have an alternative dose, although it’s disappointing that it took so long and required external pressure for the Government to finally provide the clarity people needed.

"Novavax was announced to much fanfare, with even the Prime Minister dashing up to Billingham for a photo op.

"We now need answers from the Government about when or if it will get approval, and if the jobs and investment promised as part of the vaccine manufacturing process will be safeguarded.”

Meanwhile, the Tees Valley Mayor said Fujifilm continued to play a "vital role" in innovation among the sector, including the growing life sciences sector.

He said: "I will be speaking to Fujifilm soon to understand if they need any further support in the face of these delays, as well as talking to Government to get the process moving so we can benefit from this opportunity as soon as possible.”

Novavax has said: "Novavax remains committed to filing for EUA in the UK and we are working as quickly as possible to complete our regulatory submission to MHRA."

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: "Unfortunately we are unable to comment on the details of Novavax delays except that we will review the submission once the company submits it."

Downing Street did not comment.


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