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.
Scientists have suggested that because the Valneva jab is an inactivated vaccine – the virus is killed but the whole virus envelope is preserved – it may be better at protecting against future Covid variants, as it does not only target the spike protein.
Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh, said: “One particular advantage of the Valneva vaccine is that it is made up of the whole SARS-CoV-2 virus, not just the spike protein.
“This means that it will induce antibodies and T cells against many different components of the virus, including components that are much less susceptible to variation than the spike protein.
“It is possible, therefore, that this vaccine may provide better protection against new variants as they arise.”
Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol and chief investigator of the Valneva vaccine clinical development programme in the UK, said: “It’s a good idea to have several types of vaccine and several vaccines of each type.
“This increases supplies, increases alternative supplies (so reducing unexpected shortages), increases the numbers of options in terms of effectiveness over time and safety as experience grows.”
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.