Matt Hancock more optimistic than ever for ‘great British summer’ as Covid vaccines roll out

Nicholas Cecil
·3-min read
<p>Matt Hancock during a visit to the Centre for Virus Research at Glasgow University </p> (PA)

Matt Hancock during a visit to the Centre for Virus Research at Glasgow University

(PA)

Matt Hancock ramped up hopes today of a “great British summer” as Covid-19 jabs are rolled out at record speed.

The Health Secretary stressed he had never been so optimistic that lockdown restrictions will be eased within months so people can travel across the whole of the UK.

As regulators announced they would fast-track modified vaccines to deal with any variants, Mr Hancock said: “I’ve said before that I’m optimistic for a great British summer and I’m now more optimistic about having a great British summer than I have been at any time, thanks to the speed and the effectiveness of the vaccine roll-out.”

On a visit to a laboratory in Glasgow, he added: “By great British summer, I absolutely mean people being able to enjoy travel across the whole of the UK.”

Britain is a world-leader in the roll-out of the vaccines, with more than 20 million people already having had a first dose jab.

Meanwhile, regulators revealed that tweaked vaccines to combat new Covid-19 variants will be fast-tracked for approval.

They will not have to undergo lengthy clinical trials which could take months in order to be given the green light.

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Guidance developed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the ACCESS Consortium, a coalition of regulatory authorities from the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland, lays out what information would be needed to approve any modifications to authorised Covid-19 vaccines, if virus mutations make them less effective at preventing the disease.  

Vaccine manufacturers would need to provide robust evidence that the modified vaccine produces an immune response, but “time-consuming” clinical studies that do not add to the regulatory understanding of a vaccines safety, quality or effectiveness will not be needed. 

These studies will not be required as researchers are now better able to measure protection by looking at antibodies in the blood following vaccination, reducing the need to wait and see whether or not people in a trial become infected with the disease. 

The regulators stressed that this would significantly reduce the length of time taken for the modified vaccine to be ready for use.

The vaccine manufacturer would also be expected to provide evidence showing the modified vaccine is safe and is of the expected quality.

Data from the original “robust” clinical trials and the ongoing studies on real-world use in millions of people could be used to support any decision by the regulators.  

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “We don’t have evidence at this moment that any of the vaccines in deployment are significantly lacking in effectiveness.

“They’re effective against Kent and we believe South Africa.

“We know that there has been some data from South Africa, we believe effectiveness here is maintained, and we’re working hard on the Brazil variant.

“As of today there’s no imperative that we fast-track a new variant-effective vaccine - but we are prepared.”

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