Another Covid Vaccine Has Been Approved In The UK, Here's What You Need To Know

The UK's medicines regulator is the first in the world to approve the Valneva product.
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A new Covid-19 vaccine developed by Valneva has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in the UK.

This is the sixth Covid-19 vaccine to be given a MHRA authorisation. The jab is developed by the French firm, which has a factory in Livingston near Edinburgh. The vaccines are easier to store than other jabs and made in a similar process to how polio and flu jabs are created by using more traditional technology.

The independent medicines regulator is the first in the world to approve the Valneva product, MHRA said in a statement.

Why has the jab been approved now?

The number of deaths related to Covid each week in England and Wales have continued to rise each week, even though the levels remain significantly below those reached during previous waves of the virus.

The high rates of Covid have had a “major impact” on the health service, which is facing pressure and could see a “bad winter” well into spring, the NHS Confederation has said.

The UK had been previously due to receive 100 million doses of the French firm’s jab, but the government cancelled the deal in September due to a “breach of obligations”.

Dame Kate Bingham, who is the former chairwoman of the country’s vaccine taskforce, said last year that the government may have “acted in bad faith” in the way it cancelled the deal for the Valneva vaccine.

Bingham said in a speech at Oxford University in November that the decision was not only a blow to international pandemic efforts, but would dampen the UK’s resilience to future disease outbreaks.

Is the Valneva vaccine safe?

The vaccine contains a full copy of the virus which has been inactivated so that it can’t cause the disease, but it teaches the body how to fight it.

Chief executive of the MHRA, Dr June Raine, said the approval was followed by “a rigorous review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of this vaccine”.

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, from the Commission on Human Medicines, added: “We have advised that the benefit risk balance is positive. The vaccine is approved for use in people aged 18 to 50 years, with the first and second doses to be taken at least 28 days apart.”

It’s possible that by using the whole virus instead of spike protein the vaccine may be beneficial against future emerging variants of Covid, experts say.

What about the spring vaccine programme?

The spring coronavirus vaccine roll-out has launched. The second booster will be the fourth jab received for some of those eligible and a fifth injection for vulnerable people who’ve already had an extra jab.

In the UK, people aged 75 years and older, residents in care homes for older people, and those aged 12 years and over with a weakened immune system will be offered a spring booster.

This appointment will be offered around six months after your last dose of vaccine for those eligible (and no sooner than three months since your last jab).

Those receiving the spring booster will be given a dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Officials are yet to confirm whether the new Valneva vaccine will added to the programme.