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Big boost for Valneva as Brussels signs Covid vaccine deal

Brussels has approved a deal to buy up to 60m doses of Valneva’s Covid-19 vaccine over two years, boosting the jab’s fortunes after the UK government’s cancellation this year of a 100m-dose contract worth up to €1.4bn.

Shares in the French vaccine maker jumped as much as 24 per cent on the news of the initial agreement, touching record highs reached earlier this year.

Under the contract, which is subject to national reviews and approval by the EU medicines regulator, member states will be able to purchase a total of almost 27m doses in 2022. Crucially, it “includes the possibility to adapt the vaccines to new variant strains”, the European Commission said.

Thomas Lingelbach, Valneva chief executive, said the company was grateful to the commission for its support.

“We continue to receive messages from people across the world who are waiting for an inactivated vaccine,” he added. “We are deeply committed to bringing an alternative vaccine solution to the market as quickly as possible and continue to work tirelessly to achieve that.”

The UK in September rescinded a deal for at least 100m doses of the shot, saying the company was in breach of its obligations under the deal — an accusation the company “strenuously” denied. People close to the matter said this was because the shot performed less well than others as boosters in a trial whose results have yet to be published.

Valneva said last month that its vaccine elicited a stronger immune response with fewer side-effects than the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot. The announcement renewed concerns about whether the UK should have abandoned the contract, which has also been designed to increase domestic vaccine production capabilities.

Officials close to the European negotiations said in September a deal with the bloc had been put on ice because of a glut of vaccines, with the EU having secured up to a total of 2.1bn doses of the Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer shots for the coming years. Since then, however, Europe has suffered a resurgence in Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions.

No money will be paid until a final contract is signed, which will be subject to regulatory approval by the European Medicines Agency, according to one person with knowledge of the matter.

The shot, currently not medically approved anywhere in the world, hinges on the deployment of an inactivated virus. In theory, these types of vaccines could elicit a broader type of immunity against the virus. Vaccines currently used in the UK and EU target only one of its components, the so-called spike protein.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the agreement “allows for the vaccine to be adapted to new variants. Our broad portfolio will help us to fight Covid and its variants in Europe and beyond.”

European member states would be able to donate the vaccine to poorer countries, or to redirect shipments within the bloc, the commission said, adding that it had taken “a decision to support this vaccine based on a sound scientific assessment, the technology used, the company’s experience in vaccine development and its production capacity to supply all EU member states”.

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