Vaccines Tweaked To Fight New Covid-19 Variants Can Be Developed In Just A Few Months
The UK will be able to modify vaccines in the space of just a few months to fight new variants of the coronavirus after regulatory authorities said there was no need for "lengthy" clinical trials.
Vaccine manufacturers will need to provide robust evidence that tweaked jabs provide an immune reponse but will not be required to carry out time-consuming, large-scale trials, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced on Thursday.
Dr June Raine of the MHRA said the approach, agreed with authorities in Australia, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland, was "based on tried and tested regulatory process" which is used every year in the UK for season flu jabs.
"We are going to work in the shortest time possible and we will not compromise on high standards of quality, safety and effectiveness," she told reporters this morning.
This approach will allow for modified vaccines to be manufactured, put through necessary trials and approved by regulators in just a few months, scientists say.
The development of tweaked vaccines is already underway as the government continues to tackle the Kent, South African and Brazil variants of the virus which have emerged this year.
The MHRA's Chief Scientific Officer Dr Christian Schneider compared the process of approving modified vaccines to testing a new engine in a car which you already know drives safely.
"We already know that the vaccine format works, since its previously authorised vaccine," he told reporters.
"It's a bit like when you have a car and you know that the car is driving and you have done the crash tests, and you put a new engine into the car.
"The crash test will still be the same and the car will still drive, but you make a small comparison with the previous version in order to be sure".
Regulatory authorities will be able to use data gathered in previous clinical trials and drawn upon real-time information when assessing tweaked vaccines, the MHRA said this morning.
Schneider said: "This is based on scientific principle and it does not cut any corners in terms of safety and effectiveness".