Today’s big question

What the Novavax results mean for the UK’s vaccine rollout

Expected approval of the new jab would leave UK with tens of millions of excess doses

Britain’s Covid vaccines rollout is on course to get a fresh boost after a new jab was found to be 89.3% effective in large-scale UK trials.

The UK has already secured 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, which will now be assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and could be “delivered in the second half of this year” if approved, the BBC reports.

Stan Erck, chief executive of Novavax, said the results from the UK phase three trial were “spectacular” and “as good as we could have hoped”.

How does it work?

The Novavax vaccine “works in a slightly different way to the ones that are already available”, writes BBC health editor Michelle Roberts, “but does the same job of teaching the body's immune system to recognise and fight the pandemic virus”. 

To develop the jab, researchers placed “a modified gene into a virus, called a baculovirus, and allowed it to infect insect cells”, ITV reports. Spike proteins from these cells were then “assembled into nanoparticles”, which “while they look like coronavirus, cannot replicate or cause Covid-19”, the broadcaster continues.

These nanoparticles “are then injected into the body via the vaccine where the immune system mounts an antibody response” that helps to protect the patient against future Covid-19 infection.

As the BBC's Williams adds, the Novavax jab also “appears to be effective against emerging and more infectious variants of coronavirus”, including the South African version - a result that scientists had feared “might not be possible because the vaccines were all designed to match the original virus”. 

What does it mean for the UK?

If approved, Novavax will be the fourth coronavirus vaccination to get the green light for use in the UK.

And having ordered tens of millions of doses of the jab, along with stocks of “more new vaccines coming down the tracks”, Britain could be left in the “promising position” of possessing “more doses than it needs to vaccinate the entire population”,  says Politico's London Playbook.

The promising trial results for Novavax - which would be manufactured in Stockton-on-Tees - have been welcomed by the government.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the “NHS stands ready to roll this vaccine out as quickly as possible to those most at risk if it is authorised”.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson welcomed the “good news” in a tweet in which the prime minister also thanked “all the volunteers who made these results possible”. 

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