The United Kingdom secured 90 million doses of potential coronavirus vaccines after making deals with biotech firms BioNTech, Pfizer, and Valneva, the government said Monday.
Thirty million doses come from German firms BioNTech and Pfizer, while 60 million come from French firm Valneva.
The doses will join British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca, which has already agreed to produce 100 million doses for the UK at no profit.
The British government is now overseeing the progress of three different types of potential vaccines. It has poured millions of pounds into Imperial College London and Oxford University, where research has been centered.
Meanwhile, the government has launched a website for volunteers to sign up for vaccine trials, according to Business Secretary Alok Sharma. It hopes to have 500,000 participants by October.
“Now that there are several promising vaccines on the horizon, we need to call again on the generosity of the public to help find out which potential vaccines are the most effective,” said Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer and head of the National Institute for Health Research.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, expressed doubt that a vaccine will be ready soon.
“To say that I’m 100 percent confident that we will get a vaccine this year or indeed next year is, alas, just an exaggeration,” he said in a televised interview.
Britain’s latest deals come less than a week after Russia reported a successful clinical trial, and mark a new addition to the global endeavor for a COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID Fatigue in Britain
The British people, however, are tired of waiting inside.
Throughout the pandemic, the UK has been one of the world’s worst-hit countries. After Belgium and the tiny country of San Marino, it has the highest number of deaths per capita.
As of July 20, the United Kingdom has suffered over 45,000 deaths, the highest in Europe. It has almost hit 300,000 confirmed cases.
Amid controversy, however, the country began relaxing its restrictions on July 4. Pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen, and the two-meter social distancing rule was slashed to one meter.
The public, however, was already weary of such precautions. Thousands took to the beaches in June as the summer heat reached its then-peak.
When restrictions were formally lifted, such behavior hardly shifted. London’s first night out in months led to crowded pubs and packed streets, despite the recommendations of authorities.
While masks remain required in stores, Britons appear reluctant to follow public health advice when unsupervised.
Still, Britain’s four countries are adopting different approaches to reducing the spread of coronavirus. As pubs and restaurants fill up in England, for example, the Scottish government still restricts their services to outdoor spaces.