New Covid vaccine approved in UK as cases soar across England and Wales

The Valneva vaccine is the sixth jab granted authorisation in the UK

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A Covid-19 vaccine developed by Valneva has been given regulatory approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The UK had been due to receive 100 million doses of the French firm’s jab, but the Government cancelled the deal in September due to a “breach of obligations”.

The independent medicines regulator is the first in the world to approve the Valneva product, MHRA said in a statement.

The jab developed by the firm, which has a factory in Livingston near Edinburgh, is the sixth Covid-19 vaccine to be granted an MHRA authorisation.

Deaths involving Covid-19 in England & Wales
Deaths involving Covid-19 in England & Wales
Health secretary Sajid Javid
Health secretary Sajid Javid

It comes as the number of deaths involving coronavirus registered each week in England and Wales continues to rise, although levels remain well below those reached during previous waves of the virus.

The NHS Confederation has said very high rates of Covid-19 infections are having a “major impact” on the health service, which is facing pressures it would see in a “bad winter” well into spring.

But Downing Street has rejected the call to reintroduce greater mask-wearing and a push to encourage mixing outdoors.

The former chairwoman of the country’s vaccine taskforce last year said Government may have “acted in bad faith” in the way it cancelled the deal for the Valneva vaccine.

Dame Kate Bingham, who stood down from her role at the end of 2020, criticised the decision to pull out of the agreement before Valneva had finished clinical testing of the vaccine.

The decision was not only a blow to international pandemic efforts, but would dampen the UK’s resilience to future disease outbreaks, Dame Kate said in a speech at Oxford University in November.