Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that vaccines tailored to tackle COVID-19 variants will be fast-tracked through new state-of-the-art labs
The government will invest £29.3 million through the Vaccines Taskforce in Public Health England’s new testing facilities at Porton Down.
The funding will increase the site’s capacity to 3,000 blood samples tested a week and enable scientists to accelerate testing to support the rapid development of COVID-19 variant vaccines.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“The UK has proven itself to be a world-class force in the production of COVID-19 vaccines, with the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax and Valneva vaccines all researched, developed or manufactured on British soil.
“We’ve backed UK science from the very start of this pandemic and this multi-million-pound funding for a state-of-the-art vaccine testing facility at Porton Down will enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants.
“We are committed to supporting the UK’s flourishing life-sciences industry and this announcement is yet another critical way we will build back better to protect the country over the coming months and years.”
Minister for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi said:
“Our vaccination programme has so far saved thousands of lives, but it’s vital we put in place robust support for the programme for the future.
“This funding will allow us to increase the testing capacity at Porton Down with a new innovative facility and ensure our COVID-19 vaccines are effective against any future variants of concern.
“The UK remains at the forefront of vaccine research and development, and today’s announcement will further cement us as a global frontrunner in our future response to COVID-19.”
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said:
“A new variant that can escape the current vaccines is the greatest risk of a third wave. This new investment will help us stay one step ahead of the virus by doubling our capacity to test vaccine effectiveness against emerging variants.
“While we expect the existing vaccines to offer protection against new variants, particularly preventing serious illness and death, it is important that we continue to monitor the picture as it develops.
“The best way to prevent the spread of variants is the same as always – follow public health advice and remember hands, face, space.”