News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 29 January 2021

Media Summary

COVID-19: Novavax vaccine shows 89% efficacy in UK trials
BBC News, Editorial Team, 29 January

BBC News reports that a new Coronavirus vaccine has shown to be 89.3% effective in large-scale UK trials. The Novavax jab is the first to show in trials that it is effective against the new virus variant found in the UK.

The Prime Minister welcomed the “good news” and said the UK’s medicines regulator would now assess the vaccine. The UK has secured 60 million doses of the jab, which will be made in Stockton-on-Tees in north-east England. The doses are expected to be delivered in the second half of this year, if approved for use by the MHRA.

Stan Erck, Chief Executive of Novavax, told the BBC that the manufacturing plant in Stockton-on-Tees should be up and running by March or April, with the company hoping to get approval for the vaccine from the MHRA around the same time. Like the Oxford solution, the Novavax vaccine can be stored at regular fridge temperature – which means it can be distributed more easily.

This story was also reported in Sky NewsThe Guardian and Financial Times.

 

UK won’t lift coronavirus medicine export restrictions
Politico, Charlie Cooper, Anna Isaac & Ashleigh Furlong, 28 January

Politico reports that the UK will not remove export controls on dozens of medicines despite the UK Prime Minister’s assertion this week that he did not want to see “restrictions on the supply of drugs across borders.” Responding to reports the EU might impose controls on vaccine exports on Tuesday, Johnson said it was “pretty commonsensical” not to restrict the cross-border supply of drugs, vaccines or their ingredients.

Asked on Thursday whether Johnson’s comments signalled a change in policy, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said on Thursday: “You’re aware of the export controls that are in place. I’m not aware of any planned changes,” adding: “It remains the case that we want to ensure we are able treat those who are hospitalised from Coronavirus in the most effective way possible.”

So far, UK limits on exports are focused on middlemen or wholesalers who buy medicines intended for patients in one country to sell it on for a higher price abroad. This means that drugmakers with the right marketing authorisation for a drug are still able to export it.

 

ABPI comment on medicine export bans
ABPI Press Release, 28 January

Following reports that the UK has banned exports of medicines that could be used to treat COVID-19 patients, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has released the following statement.

Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the ABPI, has said: “Global supply chains are absolutely vital in ensuring that manufacturers can get medicines and vaccines to people who need them, wherever they are in the world. The UK Government is not restricting exports by manufacturers of any medicine or vaccine.

“Parallel exporting – where a wholesaler buys medicines meant for patients in one country and sell on for a higher price to another country, potentially aggravating supply problems – is a completely different issue. Limiting some parallel exporting during a pandemic is a sensible decision and one which has been taken by a number of countries, including in the EU.”

You can read the full press release here.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

NHS staff deliver COVID jabs from more than 1,400 sites
NHS England, 28 January

NHS England have announced that  from yesterday, NHS staff have been delivering COVID jabs at a network of 1,438 vaccinations sites, ranging from GP and pharmacy-led services to hospitals and large-scale vaccination centres.

Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for the NHS in England, said: “The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in health service history, has got off to a strong start.

“NHS staff have worked hard with businesses, community and faith groups to set up an extensive network of vaccination sites that offer a range of options for people in all areas to receive their injection.

“We want to protect as many people as swiftly as possible and this latest milestone, with more than 1,400 sites up and running, means that we can continue to expand delivery as more vaccine supplies come on stream.”

There are now more than 250 hospitals delivering the jabs, along with 1,000 GP-led services. High street pharmacies are now vaccinating at 117 sites and there are also 47 large-scale vaccination centres, capable of vaccinating thousands of people each week.

 

Full Coverage

COVID-19: Novavax vaccine shows 89% efficacy in UK trials
BBC News, Editorial Team, 29 January

A new Coronavirus vaccine has been shown to be 89.3% effective in large-scale UK trials.

The Novavax jab is the first to show in trials that it is effective against the new virus variant found in the UK, the BBC’s medical editor Fergus Walsh said.

The PM welcomed the “good news” and said the UK’s medicines regulator would now assess the vaccine.

The UK has secured 60 million doses of the jab, which will be made in Stockton-on-Tees in north-east England.

The doses are expected to be delivered in the second half of this year, if approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the government said.

The UK has so far approved three coronavirus vaccines for emergency use – one from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, another by Pfizer and BioNTech, and a third from drug firm Moderna.

The Novavax jab, which is given in two doses, was shown to be 89.3% effective at preventing COVID-19 in participants in its Phase 3 clinical trial in the UK.

The Phase 3 trials – the final stage before a vaccine is looked at by a regulator – enrolled more than 15,000 people aged between 18-84, of whom 27% were older than 65, US firm Novavax said.

In the South African part of the trial, where most of the cases were the South African variant of the virus, the vaccine was 60% effective among those without HIV.

Stan Erck, Chief Executive of Novavax, said the results from the UK trial were “spectacular” and “as good as we could have hoped”, while the efficacy in South Africa was “above people’s expectations”.

He told the BBC the manufacturing plant in Stockton-on-Tees should be up and running by March or April, with the company hoping to get approval for the vaccine from the MHRA around the same time.

Minister Lucy Frazer told BBC Breakfast the government could not put an exact timeframe on when the Novavax jab might be approved as the regulation process is “out of our control”.

But the Prisons Minister added the NHS would be “ready to distribute [the jab] into people’s arms” as soon as supplies become available.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new vaccine would be “another weapon in our arsenal to beat this awful virus”, if approved.

Thanking researches and volunteers who took part in the trials, he added: “I’m proud the UK is at the forefront of another medical breakthrough.”

Prof Paul Heath, chief investigator of the UK Novavax trial, said the findings of the clinical trials were “enormously exciting findings”, particularly because of the jab’s efficacy against the UK variant.

Peter Openshaw, Professor of Experimental Medicine at Imperial College London, said the findings that the vaccine gave high levels of protection in the UK part of the trial were “excellent” but that the lower level of protection seen in South Africa was “a concern”.

These extremely encouraging trial results suggest another powerful vaccine against coronavirus could soon be within reach.

It works in a slightly different way to the ones that are already available – but does the same job of teaching the body’s immune system to recognise and fight the pandemic virus.

What is more, it appears to be effective against emerging and more infectious variants of coronavirus too – something scientists have feared might not be possible because the vaccines were all designed to match the original virus, not these new, mutated versions.

Even the South Africa variant, which has undergone the most worrisome changes, does not seem to be able to fully escape.

Nadhim Zahawi, the UK government minister responsible for the vaccine rollout, said: “Having taken part in Novavax’s vaccine trial myself, I am particularly thrilled to see such positive results.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the trial results as “fantastic news” and “one more step towards getting Britain vaccinated”.

In total, the UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and 40 million of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – both of which are currently being rolled out in the UK.

Another 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which was approved by the MHRA in early January, are expected in the spring.

The aim is to give everyone in the top four priority groups – up to 15 million people – a first dose by mid-February.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines rely on technology that has not been used in previous vaccines, but the Novavax jab uses a more traditional method of recreating part of the spike protein of the virus to stimulate the immune system.

Like the Oxford vaccine, the Novavax jab can be stored at regular fridge temperature – which means it can be distributed more easily.

More than 7.4 million people in the UK have so far received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest government figures.

Earlier, the prime minister and Public Health England (PHE) defended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, after Germany recommended that it should only be given to people aged under 65.

The European Medicines Agency is to decide later whether to approve the vaccine for use across the EU.

Dr Mary Ramsay, PHE’s Head of Immunisations, said the jab offers “high levels of protection” against COVID-19, particularly against severe illness.

Prof Anthony Harnden, Deputy Chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Germany has greater supplies of the Pfizer jab than the Oxford one, so its recommendations were made because it wanted to prioritise its larger supply for its elderly population.

Separately, the head of the European Commission has called for the EU’s vaccine contract with AstraZeneca to be published, in a growing row over reduced supplies of their jab.

Kate Bingham, who used to chair the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, told the Today programme the reason the UK was “so far ahead on manufacturing” compared with the EU was that the UK began production much earlier.

The UK recorded a further 1,239 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test on Thursday. There have also been another 28,680 new infections.

 

UK won’t lift coronavirus medicine export restrictions
Politico, Charlie Cooper, Anna Isaac & Ashleigh Furlong, 28 January

The UK will not remove export controls on dozens of medicines, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said, despite the UK Prime Minister’s assertion this week that he did not want to see “restrictions on the supply of drugs across borders.”

Responding to reports the EU might impose controls on vaccine exports on Tuesday, Johnson said it was “pretty commonsensical” not to restrict the cross-border supply of drugs, vaccines or their ingredients.

His comments came despite the U.K.’s imposition in 2020 of export restrictions on around 100 medicines that could be used to treat COVID-19 on top of scores of related drugs, as reported by POLITICO.

Asked on Thursday whether Johnson’s comments signaled a change in policy, the prime minister’s spokesperson said on Thursday: “You’re aware of the export controls that are in place. I’m not aware of any planned changes,” adding: “It remains the case that we want to ensure we are able treat those who are hospitalized from coronavirus in the most effective way possible.”

So far, U.K. limits on exports are focused on middlemen or wholesalers who buy medicines intended for patients in one country in order to sell it on for a higher price abroad. Some EU member countries have had similar controls. This means that drugmakers with the right marketing authorization for a drug are still able to export it.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Britain’s Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement that medicines “manufactured and intended for markets abroad are not subject to the export restrictions.”

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said the U.K. government was “not restricting exports by manufacturers of any medicine or vaccine,” adding that limiting so-called “parallel exporting” during the pandemic was “a sensible decision and one which has been taken by a number of countries, including in the EU.”

The confirmation that the U.K.’s policy on export controls would remain came amid the increasingly acrimonious fallout from the EU’s clash with vaccine manufacturers over supply to member countries. Amid calls from the EU for U.K.-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine doses to be redirected to the EU, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said on Thursday the U.K. wanted to to do “everything possible to make sure that as many people in countries which are our friends and neighbours are vaccinated.”

However, he said the government would not be allowing vaccines to go to the EU at this stage. “The critical thing is we must make sure that the schedule that has been agreed and on which our vaccination programme has been based and planned goes ahead,” he told the BBC’s Today program.

The U.K. has so far scheduled phase one of its vaccine plan, which involves getting a first dose to all adults over 50, health care workers and care home residents. Johnson’s spokesperson declined to comment directly on whether once this phase was complete, vaccine doses might be sent to the EU.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 29 January 2021

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