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 theâ¯ACCESSâ¯Consortium, a coalition of regulatory authorities from the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland, lays outâ¯what informationâ¯would be needed to approve any modifications to authorised Covid-19 vaccines, if virus mutations make them less effective at preventing the disease.â¯â¯
Vaccine manufacturers would need to provideâ¯robustâ¯evidence that the modified vaccine produces an immune response,â¯butâ¯“time-consuming”â¯clinicalâ¯studiesâ¯that do not add to the regulatoryâ¯understanding of aâ¯vaccinesâ¯safety, quality or effectivenessâ¯will not be needed.â¯
These studies will not be required asâ¯researchers are now better able to measure protectionâ¯by looking at antibodies in the blood following vaccination, reducing the need toâ¯waitâ¯andâ¯seeâ¯whether or notâ¯people in a trial become infected with theâ¯disease.â¯
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 provideâ¯evidenceâ¯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 peopleâ¯couldâ¯be used to support anyâ¯decision by the regulators.â¯â¯
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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