Britain is to become a production hub for the worldwide supply of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.
A landmark deal will see the firm’s drug bottled in Swindon before being sent to Pfizer‘s vast depot in the Belgian town of Puurs and distributed around the world.
The tie-up between Pfizer and Thermo Fisher Scientific, a US laboratory equipment maker which has an existing base in Swindon, will create 200 new jobs.
The Pfizer-BioNTech jab was the first to be administered by a major western nation when Margaret Keenan, now 91, received a dose in December in Coventry.
A landmark deal will see the Pfizer’s drug bottled in Swindon before being sent to Pfizer’s vast depot in the Belgian town of Puurs and distributed around the world (stock image)
However, the vaccine has not until now been made or bottled in the UK, with supplies coming from Puurs.
From early next year, Thermo Fisher will take on so-called ‘fill and finish’ duties for some of the Pfizer jabs, which involves putting the vaccine into vials and packaging them for distribution.
Pfizer, which will continue to manufacture the drug at nine sites in the US and Europe along with those of 20 contractors across the world, said the Swindon deal will add ‘significant capacity’ to its global network.
Thermo Fisher will invest £70 million to expand its existing manufacturing site, including two new manufacturing lines and ultra-cold storage.
Pfizer has distributed 1.6 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses so far this year with a target of three billion for 2021 and four billion in 2022.
The UK has ordered more of its vaccine than any other, buying 100 million doses this year with a further 35 million due in the second half of 2022.
The Pfizer-BioNTech jab was the first to be administered by a major western nation when Margaret Keenan (pictured), now 91, received a dose in December in Coventry
Pfizer UK manager Ben Osborn said: ‘I’m delighted that through this agreement, the UK will be playing a role in producing vaccines to try to reach as many people around the world as quickly as possible.
‘We work hard to ensure continuity of supply and, to date, we have been able to keep a steady flow of vaccines into the UK – ensuring we are delivering according to the monthly allocations agreed with the UK Vaccines Taskforce.’
The deal will bolster Britain’s domestic coronavirus vaccine production industry. Oxford-AstraZeneca produce and package doses at sites in Keele, Oxford and Wrexham. while Novavax, which is yet to apply for approval for its vaccine, is manufacturing in Stockton-on-Tees.
But the Government last month terminated a deal with France’s Valneva to supply doses from its facilities in West Lothian, Scotland, despite ploughing taxpayer funds into the site.
A row over ‘vaccine nationalism’ – where countries push to get first access – erupted earlier this year when the EU threatened to block AstraZeneca exports from Europe.
Downing Street hopes the agreement could bolster Britain’s self-sufficiency in vaccine production, with Boris Johnson keen to ramp up availability of jabs in the UK to prevent any future vaccine war disrupting supplies.
Mr Osborn stressed that while the Pfizer jabs would be produced in Swindon, they would likely be exported. ‘When it comes on stream, the doses produced in Swindon will be for our global supply chain,’ he said.
One billion doses have been allocated for low and lower-middle income countries at no profit this year and a further billion in 2022.
Source: Daily Mail UK