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NPR News

U.K. clears 6th COVID shot despite canceling deal for doses

Laboratory technicians work at the Valneva headquarters in Saint-Herblain, western France, Wednesday, Feb.3, 2021.
David Vincent
/
AP
Laboratory technicians work at the Valneva headquarters in Saint-Herblain, western France, Wednesday, Feb.3, 2021.

LONDON — British authorities have authorized a coronavirus vaccine for adults made by French drugmaker Valneva, despite the government's decision last year to cancel an order for at least 100 million doses.

The U.K. is the first country to authorize Valneva's vaccine, which is also under review by the European Medicines Agency. Britain's medicines regulator said Thursday that the two-dose vaccine is intended for adults ages 18 to 50, with the second dose given about a month after the first.

The Valneva vaccine is made with the decades-old technology used to manufacture shots for flu and polio. It is the sixth COVID-19 vaccine the U.K. has cleared and the only one that utilizes a "killed" virus; scientists grow the coronavirus in a lab and then inactivate the virus so it cannot replicate or infect cells.

The U.K. government scrapped an agreement with Valneva in September to purchase at least 100 million doses, saying at the time that British regulators probably would not cleared the shot. Valneva said Britain canceled the deal because of supply concerns.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in September that he couldn't go into details because of commercial issues but that the deal was spiked because "it was also clear to us that the vaccine in question that the company was developing would not get approval."

Britain was an early backer of the Valneva vaccine, agreeing to invest millions of pounds in a production facility in Scotland. As part of the contract, the U.K. had agreed to buy 100 million doses with options for another 90 million.

Even without the Valneva vaccine, the government has acquired more than enough doses to fully vaccinate everyone in the country twice. To date, nearly 60% of the British population has received three doses.

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