Britain’s vaccine mega-factory will seek to combine flu and Covid jabs into a single shot, in an attempt to speed up booster programmes, its boss has said, adding that the UK’s vaccine stockpile is so big that its services will not be needed until 2022.
Matthew Duchars, the chief executive of the £215m Vaccine Manufacturing & Innovation Centre (VMIC), said that the facility is evaluating whether a single-jab model would work in a bid to cut down on manufacturing time and make roll-outs easier.
Vulnerable people are expected to be given regular Covid boosters in a bid to combat waning immunity and better combat new variants more able to escape the immune system.
Dr Duchars said: “It will save a lot of time and it would be a lot more convenient to just give one shot, so it is something that we and vaccine developers and producers will be looking at.
“Let’s say we do need to give a seasonal vaccine, and people need one shot for flu, and one shot for Covid and another for something else. If you can put them all into one, then that’s obviously preferable.”
The centre, which has been under construction over the past year and which has received more than £200m in government funding, is expected to start a phased opening over the coming months. The aim is for the VMIC to be able to produce 70m doses of a vaccine in the space of four or five months, dramatically increasing the UK’s jab manufacturing capacity.
Dr Duchars said: “Our target is reasonable. I feel confident we can do that. Can we do it faster? Possibly. Hopefully. We’ll absolutely be working on trying to do that.”
The idea to set up a mega-vaccine factory was first conceived in 2018, with the site initially slated to open in 2022 before the pandemic hit. It was brought forward in the depths of the pandemic.