| 13 June 2024, Thursday |

UK pledges extra money to track new variant vaccines

The UK government is pledging extra money to fast-track vaccines that fight new variants of coronavirus.

Existing vaccines still protect against variants such as those identified in Kent and South Africa – but experts say it is also vital to stay a step ahead of a virus that keeps mutating.

The concern is about future variants that might escape this immunity.

The $41 million, on top of $27 million already promised, will boost testing facilities at the Porton Down research laboratory. It will also fund vaccine manufacture.

It means scientists can accelerate the pace and scale of their work, the government says.

he cash will allow scientists to test 3,000 blood samples a week, to measure the levels of protective antibodies against Covid-19 generated by different vaccines.

The government is already making plans for a booster Covid-vaccine program in the autumn, to protect the most vulnerable ahead of winter.

Last week it ordered an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer-BionNTech vaccine, which it said would be used alongside other vaccines for the boosters.

And it may use new, updated vaccines that are a better match for emerging variants.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are committed to supporting the UK’s flourishing life-sciences industry – and this announcement is yet another critical way we will build back better to protect the country over the coming months and years.”