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First French Covid vaccine: When will it be ready, who will benefit?

The Valneva vaccine is in the ‘final phase’ of receiving approval from the European Medicines Agency, and could be used for annual boosters

Valneva biotech logo with a covid vaccine injection

Should it receive approval as expected, Valneva will be the first French-made Covid-19 vaccine on the market Pic: Ink Drop / Shutterstock

The first French-made Covid-19 vaccine will “probably” be available by May this year, pending final approval from the European Medicines Agency, the director of Nantes laboratory Valneva has said.

Franck Grimaud told FranceInfo yesterday (March 17) that the vaccine is in its “final phase” of obtaining market authorisation, and “we can expect the final approval from the European Medicines Agency by the end of April”.

If it is approved as expected, the Valneva product would be the first French-made vaccine available on the market.

The vaccine is not an RNA messenger product, in contrast to the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, and instead uses “inactive virus technology”. 

It could be used to access people who have still not had any doses of the vaccine, as well as offer a French-made option for subsequent booster doses.

Mr Grimaud said: “The immediate challenge is that boosters are probably going to become annual, in the same way as the flu vaccine.”

The director said that the vaccine could “serve as a very good booster”, and played down a British study from last December, which suggested that the Valneva jab was less effective than competitors Moderna and Pfizer. He said that the study had not reflected real-life conditions.

The lab has previously said that early trials suggested its vaccine would be more than 80% effective.

Mr Grimaud said that the lab has already received 60 million doses from member states of the European Union, as well as farther afield, including a “contract signed in Bahrain”.

He said: “We have other negotiations underway in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America, and we hope to sign new agreements by the end of the year.”

It comes after another French-made vaccine project by l’Institut Pasteur in Paris abandoned its vaccine trials in January last year after it was found to be less effective than hoped.

Valneva, which has its headquarters in Saint-Herblain, near Nantes, benefitted from part of a €300 million government funding plan for vaccines and treatments in February last year, having started trials on its product in January 2021.

UK production

Valneva has also started work to build a factory in Livingston, Scotland, which is expected to produce the vaccine for the UK market. 

This is despite an order for 100 million doses of the vaccine for the UK having been cancelled in September last year. 

At the time, the UK health secretary stated: “There are commercial reasons that we have cancelled the contract, but what I can [say] is that it was also clear to us that the vaccine in question that the company was developing would not get approval by the MHRA here in the UK.” 

Valneva denies claims from the British government that it had not met obligations written into the supply deal contract before cancellation. It is not clear how Valneva’s supply to the UK will now be affected, if at all.

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French Valneva vaccine maker seeks UK approval despite cancelled order

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