Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Covid-19: What next for Valneva vaccine?

Valneva could appeal to the vaccine hesitant and may be more effective for longer

BMJ 2022; 376 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o48 (Published 11 January 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;376:o48
  1. Shyan Goh, orthopaedic surgeon
  1. Sydney, Australia
  1. sgoh{at}hotmail.com

The UK government’s treatment of the Valneva covid-19 vaccine is appalling.1

In September 2021, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, was quoted as saying of Valneva to the House of Commons: “It was also clear to us that the vaccine in question that the company was developing would not get approval by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) here in the UK.”2

Later, in Hansard, this was amended to “the vaccine in question that the company was developing has not yet gained approval by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency here in the UK, and may not.”3

Boris Johnson was quoted as saying in November 2021, “I was personally very disappointed when we couldn’t get approval for the Valneva vaccine in the way we had hoped.”4

These negative comments are surprising given the MHRA is still assessing Valneva’s submission (which started only in August 2021) as a rolling review; the company submitted the positive phase III results in November 2021.

This raises the question of interference in the MHRA’s processes and political bias.

One reason for covid-19 vaccine hesitancy is around the relatively new technology involved in mRNA vaccines (which dominates vaccine rollout in the EU, UK, and US) with unknown long term side effects on large populations. Hence, Valneva and Novavax, both of “conventional” technology and relatively good efficacy, may be more acceptable to those hesitant about having the current novel covid-19 vaccines.5

Furthermore, Valneva may also be helpful in booster vaccination rollout with heterologous products of different technology.6

As a whole virus vaccine, it may be more effective over a longer period of time (as more variants emerge) than those vaccines only targeting SARS-CoV-2’s characteristic protein spikes.7

The UK’s cancellation of the Valneva contract may prove to be a premature decision that will haunt the Johnson government.

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References

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