Large-scale manufacturing of a potential coronavirus vaccine which could deliver up to 60 million doses this year has begun in Scotland.
Clinical trials are still ongoing for the Valneva vaccine but manufacturing has started at the French biotech company’s site in Livingston, West Lothian.
The announcement on Thursday comes amid Boris Johnson’s visit to Scotland, which he will use to argue that the Union has been integral in supporting people north of the border during the pandemic.
Some 60 million doses of the vaccine have been agreed by the UK Government, with the option to acquire a further 130 million if it is approved.
The candidate is currently in phase one/two trials and will need approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before it is rolled out.
Initial results from the ongoing clinical study, involving 150 participants at testing sites in Bristol, Southampton, Birmingham and Newcastle, are expected in April.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said that manufacturing the vaccine now means it can be rolled out quicker if it receives regulatory approval.
It follows a joint investment in the Livingston facility by the Government as part of an agreement to secure early access to the jab, according to the Government.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are currently being rolled out across the UK, with Government data showing more than 7.1 million people have received their first vaccine dose.
Valneva will potentially have the capacity to supply up to 250 million doses of the inactivated whole virus vaccine – containing whole bacteria or viruses which have been killed – to the UK and internationally if successful.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “By starting manufacturing, we will have a running start at rolling these out as quickly as possible to protect the British public if it receives regulatory approval.
“This facility in Scotland, backed by millions from the Government, will help us beat coronavirus and boost our resilience against future pandemics.”
The facility will establish a permanent UK ability to manufacture inactivated viral vaccines, a type which is also used for flu, polio and rabies jabs, according to the BEIS.
Valneva chief executive Thomas Lingelbach said: “Our team in Scotland have done an amazing job to get manufacturing started so quickly.
“We believe that our vaccine, assuming successful development, can make a major contribution in the UK and beyond.”