Another Covid-19 vaccine could be approved for use in the UK within weeks after reports show that the two-dose Novavax vaccine is 89.3 per cent effective against the disease. The vaccine also showed an 85.6 per cent efficacy against the new UK variant. The data comes from an early analysis of a 15,000-person trial.

The Novavax vaccine was found to be less effective against the South African variant, however. In a 4,400-person trial in South Africa, the vaccine’s efficacy was found to be 60 per cent. Scientists continue to be concerned about whether the current vaccines will work as well against the new strain. Novavax has said it has plans to immediately begin developing a new vaccine to tackle this variant specifically.

Britain has secured 60 million doses of the jab, manufactured in Stockton-on-Tees in the North-East of England. According to the government, once the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the vaccine, the doses are expected to be delivered in the second half of this year. The 60 million doses will mean that the UK will have tens of millions of extra doses than it needs to inoculate the entire population.

The Novavax jab would join the three other vaccines available in the UK: the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. Data from late-stage trials of the Janssen vaccine is due to be published in the coming days. The jab could also be approved for use in the UK in a matter of weeks.

Like Oxford/AstraZeneca, the Novavax vaccine does not need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures. It just needs to be stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius, the temperature of a normal fridge.

Unlike the jabs approved so far, the Novavax vaccine works by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the spike protein. To make the jab, researchers insert a modified gene into a virus, known as “baculovirus” and infect cells. The spike proteins from these cells, which are assembled into nanoparticles, cannot cause or replicate Covid-19. Through the Novavax vaccine, the nanoparticles are injected into the body where the immune system can build an antibody response.

The Prime Minister took to Twitter to welcome the good news after the announcement: “Good news that the Novavax vaccine has proved effective in U.K. trials. Thank you to all the volunteers who made the results possible. Our medicines regulator will now assess the vaccine, which will be made in Teeside.”

The encouraging news welcomed praise from across the board. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “This is positive news and, if approved by the medicine regulator, the Novavax vaccine will be a significant boost to our vaccination programme and another weapon in our arsenal to beat this awful virus. The Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer, praised the “fantastic news” and said it was “one step towards getting Britain vaccinated.”

The encouraging trial data is a great success for the Government’s Vaccine Taskforce and its chief, Kate Bingham: “When I heard the news last night, I’m afraid I broke the Dry January rule and celebrated with a glass of wine.”

The chairman of the Taskforce, Clive Dix, said: “The efficacy shown against the emerging variants is also extremely encouraging. This is an incredible achievement that will ensure we can protect individuals in the UK and the rest of the world from the virus.”