A coronavirus vaccine trialled in the north-east could be approved for UK use “within weeks” as it has cleared another major hurdle.
The Novavax jab has been found to be 89% effective in preventing coronavirus during its Phase 3 clinical trial.
This involved more than 15,000 people aged between 18 and 84 from across the UK – including several hundred in the NHS Grampian area.
The health board issued an appeal for volunteers in October and received more than 1,500 inquiries within the first four days.
The double-blind placebo-controlled study meant not even those administering the jab were aware of whether the dose contained the vaccine or a salt and water placebo.
After receiving the injection, each north-east participant returned to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary three weeks later for a check-up and to have blood samples taken.
Following today’s publication of the Novavax trials, the vaccine will now be assessed by the Medicines And Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Chief executive Stan Erck told the BBC the manufacturing plant in Stockton-on-Tees should be up and running by March or April, with the company hoping to get approval for the vaccine from the MHRA around the same time.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS stands ready to roll out the vaccine if it is approved, which he said would provide a “significant boost to our vaccination programme and another weapon in our arsenal to beat this awful virus”.
The chairman of the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce, Clive Dix, said the results were “spectacular”, adding: “The efficacy shown against the emerging variants is also extremely encouraging.
“This is an incredible achievement that will ensure we can protect individuals in the UK and the rest of the world from this virus.”
The jab has shown around 60% effectiveness against the South African variant, which has been worrying scientists due to concerns vaccines may not work against it, but it offered 86% protection against the new UK strain.
Two vaccines have already been rolled out in the UK – from Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca – while a third from Moderna has been approved for use.
The Novavax jab would be delivered in the second half of 2021 if it receives MHRA approval.