By Alistair Smout and Josephine Mason
LONDON, Aug 14 (Reuters) – The UK will buy potential COVID-19 vaccines from US labs Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc, the companies said on Friday, increasing the number of deals the country has with drug companies.
London and Washington lead globally with six vaccine deals with laboratories each, as companies and governments around the world work against the clock to find a vaccine to curb the pandemic.
The latest deals bring the total number of doses insured by the UK to 362 million for a population of 66 million. Vaccines could be available by the middle of next year for priority groups, such as front-line health and social care workers, ethnic minorities, adults with serious illnesses and the elderly, according to London.
The agreements cover a wide range of vaccine types currently being developed against COVID-19, while the UK seeks to protect itself in the event that one or more of the drugs turns out to be ineffective.
“The government’s strategy of building a portfolio of promising vaccine candidates will ensure that we have the best chance of finding one that works,” British Business Minister Alok Sharma said in a statement.
Johnson & Johnson said its Janssen Pharmaceutica unit will supply the UK with its candidate, known as Ad26.COV2.S, with an initial sale of 30 million cost-priced doses for emergency use in the pandemic.
The advance purchase agreement will give the option of an additional purchase of up to 22 million doses, he said.
Separately, Novavax announced that London will buy 60 million doses of its candidate, NVX-CoV2373. Novavax will make part of its vaccine using Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies facilities in Stockton-on-Tees, in the north of England.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout, Josephine Mason and Kate Kelland; edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)