Production of the Novavax covid-19 vaccine is already well under way in Billingham.
Fujifilm Diosynth Technologies has begun manufacturing the jab, which is set to be the UK’s fourth approved covid vaccine, the company’s chief executive has confirmed. Martin Meeson said production has “ramped up” at the firm’s Belasis Avenue facility and others around the world including the US. But he has not specified how long the vaccine could take to reach patients’ arms – saying “if we’ve learned anything over the last year, it’s not to speculate on the timings of things”.
The UK has ordered 60m doses of the Novavax vaccine, which has yet to be approved by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency).
Speaking to Radio Four’s Today programme, Mr Meeson said:
“We have ramped up the manufacturing of this key vaccine candidate, and we’ve done that at sites across the world including the US. Our facility is ready here in the UK and we’ve just commenced the first part of that manufacturing process. We have over 30 years’ experience on Teesside in manufacturing therapeutics and vaccines. Production of the vaccine by US-based firm Novavax was a “significant undertaking”, he added.
“Drugs can take up to 10 years from the moment the idea emerges to being approved to put into human beings, he continued.” “We are focused on our part of the chain. There is an extremely complex supply chain, there are many bits in front of us and people providing us with materials and components to manufacture this. We would like to see this out there as soon as possible. Our staff are working 24/7 to make sure it will happen.”
Fujifilm’s Andy Ross added:
“In line with our commitment to Novavax and the UK Government, we started our manufacturing activities in early February and work is going on in earnest right now.
“All of our cell culture capacities and resources are dedicated to continuously manufacturing this vaccine. We have more than 850 members of staff on Teesside, with an expert team of around 300 people in highly-specialised roles working around the clock, seven days a week on Novavax – all hands are on deck.
“Everybody at Fujifilm is incredibly proud of the work under way on Teesside and honoured to be a part of the solution to help bring an end to this pandemic.”
Trials have shown the new coronavirus vaccine being made on Teesside offers 100% protection against severe disease. The Novavax vaccine has also been shown to be effective against variants identified within the UK and South Africa. It will offer total protection against death and serious illness from the original strain of coronavirus.
Results from the latest trials of vaccine carried out in the UK also show it was 86% effective in protecting against the more contagious variant first discovered in Kent. It comes at a time when the UK is expecting to see a slowing down of the vaccination programme from next month, amid EU delays of the AstraZeneca jab. The MHRA has already approved AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna jabs for the UK’s rollout. Novavax, Inc. is an American based vaccine development company headquartered in Maryland.