LONDON – The U.K. government canceled an agreement with French vaccine maker Valneva partly because it was clear the company’s COVID-19 shot wouldn’t be approved by British regulators, the health secretary said Tuesday.
Sajid Javid’s comments came a day after Valneva said the government had terminated an agreement to buy at least 100 million doses of the vaccine. The company “strenuously” denied allegations that it had breached its contract obligations.
Responding to questions from a lawmaker, Javid said he couldn’t go into detail on the government’s decision because of commercial issues.
But he said that "it was also clear to us that the vaccine in question that the company was developing would not get approval by the (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) here in the U.K.,” Javid said in the House of Commons.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Britain was an early backer of the Valneva project, agreeing to invest millions of pounds in a production facility in Scotland as part of deal announced last September. As part of the contract, the U.K. had agreed to buy 100 million doses of the vaccine, with options for another 90 million. The vaccine is in late stage human trials and not yet approved by regulators.
Valneva would have received up to 1.4 billion euros ($1.65 billion) from the agreement, if Britain took delivery of all 190 million doses, according to the company.
While the decision to cancel the contract won’t have an immediate impact on Britain’s mass vaccination program, Scottish officials are concerned about the impact on jobs at the Valneva plant in Livingston, outside Edinburgh.
The government’s investment in Valneva’s COVID-19 vaccine was expected to support at least 100 high-paying jobs at the plant.
Javid said the government would be working with Scottish authorities on issues surround the Livingston plant.
Even without the Valneva vaccine, the government has acquired more than enough doses to fully vaccinate everyone in the country twice.
More than 80% of people age 16 and over have already been fully vaccinated, according to the latest government figures. The government on Tuesday announced plans to offer a third shot of vaccine to everyone over 50 and other vulnerable people in an effort to head off waning immunity this winter.
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