Scotland could be producing its own traditionally-formulated coronavirus vaccine capable of fending off variants and helping bolster worldwide supplies if the government invests in it, parliamentarians have said.
In a letter to Scottish Government ministers, MPs and MSPs have urged them to help the Valneva factory in Livingston after its £1bn contract to make 100 million doses was suddenly cancelled by Westminster.
The company’s vaccine is inactivated, making it similar to those used for flu, hepatitis A, polio and rabies, and is the only one of its kind being developed in Europe.
Experts have said it has a number of advantages over currently approved jabs, including tackling the emergence of new variants and being easier to store and transport, with tens of thousands of doses cleared for rollout across the EU.
A decision on the Valneva vaccine is expected from the Medicines and Healthcare products and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) early next year.
At the Science and Technology Committee this week, former UK Vaccine Taskforce chair Dame Kate Bingham described the UK Government’s decision to pull its deal with Valneva as and “short-sighted”.
“I still can’t understand why we wouldn’t want to continue with a state-of-the-art brand new manufacturing plant that we’ve largely built but not yet completely built,” she said.
The UK Government said it served notice over allegations of a breach of the agreement, which Valneva “strenuously” denied.
In a letter West Lothian representatives Hannah Bardell, Angela Constance, Martyn Day and Fiona Hyslop, highlighted securing 250 jobs and future vaccine opportunities at the Livingston site.
Bardell said: “It’s not the job of the SNP Government in Scotland to clean up Westminster’s mess. We don’t have the borrowing powers to put in this scale of investment for the whole project. However, with the limited resources we have I hope we can help plug the gap and help complete the job.”
A spokesperson for the company said it was in “highly constructive” talks with the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise to realise the potential of the new facility.
“Valneva is continuing to do everything it can to make its inactivated, adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine, VLA2001, available to people,” they said.
“This includes ongoing investment in Livingston as well as around the UK in clinical trials.
“We are grateful for the continued support of our local politicians and stakeholders.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “Our vaccination programme is continuing to make phenomenal progress, with over 80% of the UK population now double vaccinated against Covid-19 and over 19 million boosters administered.
“Our independent medicines regulator – the MHRA – has not approved the Valneva candidate vaccine for use in the UK. We do not expect this to have any impact on our booster programme.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Valneva is a valued contributor to our life sciences sector and the Livingston facility is an important asset, supporting high quality jobs. We continue to offer support and health secretary Humza Yousaf and business minister Ivan McKee met virtually with the company on Wednesday to discuss further options.
“We have also engaged with the UK Government to seek its assurance that the facility will be supported in order to protect jobs.”