UK secures 90 million more doses of potential virus vaccine
The orders follow previous deals reached with four other companies, including BioNTech, Pfizer and Valneva, and mean Britain has agreed access to four different vaccine types being produced by six firms.
"Since we don't know if any of these vaccines are going to work, we think it's important to have a spread of risk across the different types," Kate Bingham, Head of the UK Vaccines Task Force, told AFP.
"We do need a broad portfolio of different vaccines because I don't think there will be a single vaccine that will be suitable for everybody."
The new agreements include co-funding a "ground-breaking global clinical study" of the Janssen vaccine, the government said.
Meanwhile Novavax will conduct the key third phase of its vaccine trials with the support of Britain's National Institute for Health Research, it added.
Bingham said she expected to strike further deals with other pharma companies, adding the most optimistic timeline for any to begin delivering doses was by the end of the year.
"This is a good start but will there be better and different vaccines coming in the future," she said. "This virus is here to stay."
Countries around the world have been racing to strike agreements for some of the dozens of Covid-19 vaccines currently in development.
Russia said this week it had developed the world's first vaccine offering "sustainable immunity" against the virus and was in the final stage of human trials.
Vietnam's health ministry is looking to buy up to 150 million doses of the Russian vaccine, state media said on Friday, despite global scepticism over its effectiveness and safety.
Bingham said no Western regulator would currently approve the Russian vaccine given the level of data available.
"There is no reason to think the vaccine doesn't work or is not safe, but there is not data suggesting it's safe or effective," she added.