Hopes for contract

Valneva order ‘may be reinstated’ to fight Omicron

Valneva Covid vaccine

The company is winning orders in other countries

UK Government ministers may be about to return to the negotiating table with French vaccine developer Valneva two months after cancelling a contract to supply Covid vaccines from its plant in Livingston.

A source close to the situation says it is hoped the UK Government will “seek an amicable resolution” and at least partially reinstate the £1.2bn order to help combat the new Omicron variant.

Westminster terminated the deal in September, claiming breach of contract, a move that drew criticism from business leaders, senior academics and politicians.

The government had placed an order for 100 million doses of its VLA2001 vaccine after increasing its request by 40 million last February. Then, without warning, it pulled the plug.


Valneva’s Livingston plant saw its contract cancelled

It placed a question mark over the future of the firm’s new West Lothian factory, a globally-qualified manufacturing site for viral vaccines including VLA2001.

The company is currently supplying, or is in discussion, with other countries about potential deals for the vaccine.

It follows successful advanced trials in both the United States and Europe, reports Bloomberg. Study results are eliciting better immunity than AstraZeneca’s shot, with fewer side effects.

There is a growing belief that adding VLA2001 to the UK’s portfolio could significantly increase vaccination coverage and make an important contribution to the the fight against the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Valneva began manufacturing VLA2001 at Livingston in January and throughout this year manufacturing capabilities have been scaled up to address projected commercial demand.

The company’s site in Solna, Sweden, provides fill-and-finish operations to prepare the the key vaccine process ready to be transported wherever it is needed.

Valneva had signed an Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission to supply up to 60 million doses of VLA2001, over two years.

IDT Biologika will produce the VLA2001 drug substance at its Biosafety Level 3 facilities in Dessau-Roßlau, Germany. The inter-country collaboration includes Valneva’s Scottish manufacturing site.

A senior industry source, who asked not to be named, said: “The UK Government’s actions were quite unexpicable. However, I strongly suspect the VLA2001 story has a long way to go.”

The latest pressure on the government to reinstate the Valneva contract comes as the chief executive of Moderna Therapeutics has predicted that existing vaccines will be less effective against the Omicron variant than other strains of coronavirus.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Stéphane Bancel said the high number of Omicron mutations on the spike protein and the rapid spread of the variant in South Africa suggest that existing vaccines may need to be modified, which could take months.

“There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level . . . we had with [the] Delta [variant],” Bancel said.

His comments led to another slide in stock markets, with the FTSE 100 down nearly 100 points in early trade.

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