Britain is in talks with Oxford and AstraZeneca for additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine which has been tweaked for improved targeting of the Wuhan Coronavirus variant that was first identified in South Africa.
Previously, the country had secured 100 million doses of the vaccine; Britain’s health ministry said the extra doses under discussion would be tailored to target the B.1.351 variant.
In February, South Africa placed AstraZeneca’s vaccine on hold after data analysis revealed that the vaccine gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the country’s dominant variant.
Oxford considers the South African variant a top priority for vaccine developers; AstraZeneca has targeted the development of new vaccines against variants by the autumn.
Britain has also committed to funding trials for the new tweaked vaccine, which are likely to be fast-tracked through the regulatory process following new guidance in March.