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Large-scale manufacture of Valneva Covid vaccine begins in Scotland before phase-3 human trials even start

Large-scale manufacture of Valneva Covid vaccine begins in Scotland before phase-3 human trials even start
The UK government has taken a risk on a promising candidate vaccine, with production of the jab already started, despite the fact that the vaccine hasn’t even begun large-scale human trials.

Large-scale manufacturing of a Covid-19 jab developed by speciality vaccine company Valneva has started in Livingston, Scotland, the government announced on Thursday morning.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted while on his controversial trip to Scotland: “It’s brilliant that @valnevaSE is starting the large-scale manufacture of its potential vaccine, creating 100 high-skilled jobs at their Livingston facility.” 

However, the candidate vaccine is currently in trial phases one and two, and will need to demonstrate appropriate levels of safety and efficacy before it can even begin large-scale human trials. 

“By starting manufacturing, we will have a running start at rolling these out as quickly as possible to protect the British public if it receives regulatory approval,” said Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. 

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The UK currently leads the way in Europe as vaccination programmes against Covid-19 kick off. The best performing mainland EU country, Denmark, has only vaccinated 3.7 people per 100, compared to 11.3 in the UK.

Access to vaccines has been a major reason for this discrepancy, with EU nations facing supply challenges for both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, although the latter is yet to be approved by Brussels.

A disagreement has emerged this week. The EU is now demanding a share of the AstraZeneca vaccine being produced in the UK, after it was announced that AstraZeneca’s Belgian and Dutch manufacturers would not be able to deliver the promised doses to European countries. 

UK minister Michael Gove insisted on Thursday that there “will be no interruption” to British vaccine supplies from AstraZeneca following the EU’s demand. 

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On Wednesday Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon questioned whether the UK prime minister’s planned visit to Scotland was truly “essential,” adding that both she and Boris Johnson have to lead by example and follow the rules the government has set.

While insisting that the PM was still welcome in Scotland, she added that she was not “ecstatic” about Johnson’s visit, which has been billed by some commenters as a chance to hail the benefits of the union amid Sturgeon’s independence push.

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