Valneva Covid vaccine: How does it work and when will it be ready?

The promising new candidate is still undergoing clinical trials but, if approved, the UK would receive up to 60 million doses by the end of this year.

What type of vaccine is it?

Valneva’s jab falls into a category known as “inactivated whole virus” vaccines.

These contain viruses whose genetic material has been destroyed by heat, chemicals or radiation so they cannot infect cells and replicate but can still trigger an immune response.

Has this technology been used before?

Yes, this technology is well-established and has been used in seasonal flu, hepatitis A, polio and rabies vaccines.

The Covid-19 vaccines developed by Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm, and India’s Bharat Biotech, which have all been approved for emergency use in their countries, are also inactivated vaccines.

How does the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine work?

How does it work?

Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is studded with spike proteins which it uses to enter human cells.

While the genetic material virus in the Valneva vaccine candidate has been destroyed, the inactivation process preserves the structure of the spike protein, which helps the body identify the substance as a “foreign invader” and induces an immune response.

So later, when a vaccinated person comes into contact with the virus, the immune system is primed for attack.

How does it compare to the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs?

Unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which needs to be kept at a temperature of about minus 70C, both the Valneva and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs conform with the standard cold chain requirements, which is between 2C and 8C.

All three vaccines require a second booster shot to maximise immune response.

Where are the clinical trials taking place?

The Valneva candidate vaccine is being tested on 150 volunteers at testing sites in Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle and Southampton.

These tests will show whether the vaccine produces a safe and effective immune response against Covid-19.

If successful, larger tests will be planned for April 2021, with more than 4,000 UK volunteers taking two doses.

These trials will include those aged 18-65 as well as over-65s.

It is the fifth vaccine supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to enter clinical trials in the UK, alongside those from Oxford/AstraZeneca, Imperial College London, Novavax and Janssen.

If successful, Valneva’s jab could be available by the end of 2021.

Has the Government already placed an order for the jab?

There is an in-principle agreement for 60 million doses, with an option to acquire a further 130 million doses from 2022-2025.

Valneva is also in advanced discussions with the European Commission for the supply of up to 60 million doses of its vaccine.

Its manufacturing facility in Livingston is expected to have the capacity to produce up to 250 million doses annually for shipment across the UK and around the world.

Valneva’s facility in Solna, Sweden, which currently produces the cholera vaccine, is expanding its capacity for fill and finish operations for its coronavirus vaccine – which is the process of filling vials with the medicine and finishing the process of packaging it for distribution.


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