A West Lothian factory will supply up to 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, if it is proven to work, following the expansion of a French firm’s Scottish base.
The UK Government has secured a deal for early access to a “promising” vaccine candidate being developed by Valneva. Under a joint investment deal between the firm and UK ministers, the company is expanding its Livingston facility in the hope that clinical trials will prove successful.
Alok Sharma, the business secretary, visited the plant yesterday. He admitted it was impossible to predict when the vaccine would be ready. However, he defended the government’s strategy of investing in several different vaccine candidates, saying in an ideal scenario, several would be proven effective and that different vaccines could potentially be used for different sections of society.
"The multimillion-pound upfront investment we have agreed with Valneva today means that their vaccine can be manufactured in quantity right here in Scotland, he said.
“If clinical trials are successful, millions of people in priority groups across the UK will be protected by their life-saving vaccine."
Mr Sharma said that a potential vaccine from AstraZeneca was "ahead of the pack in terms of clinical trials", but added: "It is entirely possible to imagine that you have a number of potential vaccines, but they are deployed in different parts of the population."
He also urged caution about the prospect of a working vaccine, stressing there was "no guarantee" that any attempt would be effective.
He said: “There are certain diseases where we’ve been looking for a vaccine for a long period of time and not found one.
“But of course, there is significant effort globally which is going into finding successful vaccines to treat coronavirus. So I hope we will be successful but there are no guarantees.”
It is expected that 75 new jobs will be created as part of the investment. Valneva's vaccine, which is called VLA2001, is one of four potential vaccines which the UK Government has secured rights for.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: "We are doing everything possible to keep people in all parts of the UK safe as we tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
"The UK Government is purchasing millions of doses of coronavirus vaccine for distribution across all parts of the UK.
"A safe and effective vaccine is vital to the long-term protection against the virus we need.
"I'm particularly pleased that Scotland's world-class research sector is playing such an important role in developing a much-needed vaccine."