UK to fast track new COVID vaccines tweaked to fight new strain

March 05, 2021 | Updated 1:14 pm

UK to fast track new COVID vaccines tweaked to fight new strain COVID vaccination Credits: Xinhua

LONDON, March 4 (Xinhua) — Future vaccines that have been tweaked to deal with new coronavirus variants will be fast-tracked for authorisation, Britain’s medicines and health care regulator announced Thursday.

“We have a clear goal that future vaccine modifications that respond to new variants of coronavirus can be made in the shortest possible time without compromising safety, quality or effectiveness,” June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said in a statement.

According to new guidelines, the three-phase safety trials required for the original coronavirus vaccines won’t be needed but manufacturers must provide robust evidence that the modified vaccine triggers an immune response.

Christian Schneider, chief scientific officer at the MHRA, said: “The public should be confident that no vaccine would be approved unless the expected high standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness are met.”

Currently, both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have reportedly shown to be effective against the variant that first emerged in Britain late last year.

However, experts have raised concerns over the efficacy of current vaccines in the variants first found in South Africa and Brazil, which have both been detected in Britain.

Six cases of P1 variant related to Brazil have been found in Britain, including three in England and three in Scotland.

More than 20.7 million people in Britain have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.

At present, England is under the third national lockdown since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country. Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

On February 22, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his long-anticipated “roadmap” exiting the lockdown. Schools in England will reopen from Monday next week as the first part of the four-step plan, which Johnson said was designed to be “cautious but irreversible”.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia, and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.