Britain seeks extra AstraZeneca shots to combat covid-19 variant

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Britain is in talks with AstraZeneca for additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccine that will have been modified to better target the Beta coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa.

Health minister, Matt Hancock said this Wednesday, ahead of the summit of Group of Seven (G7) health ministers in Oxford, which starts on Thursday.

Britain has previously secured 100 million doses of the vaccine, developed at the University of Oxford and licenced to AstraZeneca.

“We’ve started commercial negotiations with AstraZeneca to secure a variant vaccine: future supplies of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine that have been adapted to tackle the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa,” Hancock said in a speech at the university.

South Africa put use of AstraZeneca’s shot on hold in February after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the country’s dominant variant, now known as Beta.

Oxford considers the variant top priority for vaccine developers, and AstraZeneca has targeted the development of new vaccines against variants by the autumn.

Britain has committed to funding trials for the new adapted vaccine, which could be fast-tracked through the regulatory process following new guidance in March.

Matt Hancock

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