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More funding for vaccine centre as half of UK adults get jab

Image: Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre

Further £47.6 million announced for Oxfordshire vaccine manufacturing centre as 26.8 million get first dose

The government has announced an additional £47.6 million for its Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre as half of all UK adults received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Announced on 20 March, the funding will be used to expand the capacity of the Oxfordshire-based centre (pictured) so that it can make up to 70 million doses within a six-month period as well as to speed up its deployment.

The funding brings the government’s total investment in the centre to £215m.

The announcement came as it was revealed that half of all adults in the UK have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Between 8 December and 19 March a total of 26.8 million people received first doses, while 2.1 million people have had their second dose so far.

According to the government, the UK is now on track to achieve the prime minister’s target of offering the vaccine to all over-50s by 15 April, as well as all adults by the end of July.

“Vaccinating over half of all adults is a phenomenal achievement and is testament to the mammoth efforts of the NHS, GPs, volunteers, local authorities and civil servants in every corner of the UK,” said health secretary Matt Hancock.

“It shows the strength of the Union and what can be achieved when we work together as one United Kingdom to protect those most at risk. But the job is not done yet.”

Funding for clinical trials

The government has also announced a £3.2m investment in two clinical trials aimed at developing treatments to prevent vulnerable people catching Covid-19.

The PROTECT-V trial, run by the University of Cambridge, will look at potential Covid-19 treatments’ effectiveness in reducing the spread of the virus among immunocompromised groups.

While the PROTECT-CH trial, run by the University of Nottingham, will also look at treatments for reducing transmission and serious illness from the virus, for care homes, their residents and staff.

Innovation minister at the health department, James Bethell, said the trials would provide the government “with invaluable data” so vulnerable groups “get every possible form of defence against the virus”.

“I urge as many care homes and eligible people to sign up for these trials as possible, and to play a part in securing future treatments for the most at-risk in our society.”

Vaccine passports

Meanwhile, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, warned against the misuse of digital vaccine passports, which it said raise “ethical and data privacy challenges”.

“It is not necessary to create any central digital identifiers for vaccine validation purposes, but some countries may be tempted to,” said Adam Leon Smith, chair of BCS’s Software Testing Group.

“One reason that healthcare authorities might want to identify people centrally is to manage the vaccination process itself, another might be to exclude vaccinated individuals from particular mass testing activities.

“But then you can easily imagine how this data might be joined with other information, such as address, or key worker status. All with sensible intentions, but care needs to be taken that this data is not misused.”