The delayed Covid-19 vaccine developed by French drugmaker Sanofi could be rolled out by the end of the year after early trials showed it was able to produce a strong immune response to the virus.
Results from phase two study of the vaccine, which has been developed in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, showed that the immune response of the 722 participants was comparable to that in people who had recovered from Covid-19.
Just one shot of the vaccine produced a strong response in the trials, suggesting there is significant potential for the jab to be used as a booster, the companies said.
The vaccine will now move to phase three trials and could be made available by the end of the year.
Roger Connor, president of GSK’s vaccine business, said: “We believe that this vaccine candidate can make a significant contribution to the ongoing fight against Covid-19 and will move to phase three as soon as possible to meet our goal of making it available before the end of the year.”
Sanofi and GSK’s vaccine had initially been expected to receive regulatory approval in the first half of 2021, but it was delayed after failing to produce a strong response in the over 50s.
The delay of the vaccine in December was seen as a major factor in Brussels’ stuttering vaccine roll-out earlier this year after the EU placed a large order for the jab following pressure from Paris, where Sanofi is based.
The European Commission ordered 300m doses of the vaccine in September, the second deal it struck after AstraZeneca.
It only reached agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech in November despite the companies’ vaccine having been recognised as a front-runner months earlier.
German MP and epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach said: “France took care that not too much German vaccine was purchased in relation to the French vaccine.” French ministers rejected the claims, calling them “unacceptable and false”.
Clement Beaune, France’s European affairs minister, said at the time of the row: “It is absurd to play countries and laboratories off against each other because all countries need all the vaccines to vaccinate the maximum number of people between now and the summer.”
The UK has ordered 60m doses of the GSK and Sanofi vaccine, out of a total of more than 500m doses.
GSK and Sanofi said they would test the vaccine in a trial which would involve more than 35,000 people across a number of countries, and would assess whether it worked against variants including the Wuhan strain and South African mutation.
They also plan to conduct booster studies for the jabs amid concerns over increasing mutations of the virus. The rising prevalence of the Indian variant is at risk of delaying the end of lockdown in the UK, although Matt Hancock has said early data suggests that the current vaccines in deployment work against the variant.
News that GSK’s vaccine could be coming later this year will provide a bump for the British company, which has been facing pressure from activist investor Elliott Management for a shake-up.
The Telegraph reported on Sunday that the US hedge fund giant had told GSK investors “change is coming”, fuelling speculation that chief executive Emma Walmsley could be the target of a radical management shake-up.
GSK is already planning to push through changes, and will be laying out its strategy to investors in June.
As part of those plans, GSK will look to spin off its consumer business which includes brands such as Aquafresh toothpaste, to focus more on prescription drugs and vaccines.
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