Covid-19: UK orders 114 million vaccine doses; approves another new drug

The antibody reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death by 79% in high-risk adults with symptomatic infection.

By Prasun Sonwalkar

Published: Thu 2 Dec 2021, 2:14 PM

Britain’s medicines regulator on Thursday approved another Covid-19 treatment – Xevudy (sotrovimab) – following trials that found it to be safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate infection.

The Boris Johnson government also announced finalising new contracts of 60 million additional doses of the Moderna vaccine and 54 million more Pfizer/BioNTech doses for use during 2022 and 2023, intended to future-proof the UK’s booster programme in light of new Omicron variant.

The new treatment has been approved by the regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, and the government’s independent expert scientific advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines, making it the second monoclonal antibody therapeutic to be approved following Ronapreve.

Developed by GSK and Vir Biotechnology, sotrovimab is a single monoclonal antibody. The drug works by binding to the spike protein on the outside of the Covid-19 virus. This in turn prevents the virus from attaching to and entering human cells, so that it cannot replicate in the body.


In a clinical trial, a single dose of the monoclonal antibody was found to reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death by 79 per cent in high-risk adults with symptomatic infection. Based on the data, sotrovimab is most effective when taken during the early stages of infection and so the MHRA recommends its use as soon as possible and within five days of symptom onset.

Sotrovimab is administered by intravenous infusion over 30 minutes. It is approved for individuals aged 12 and above who weigh more than 40kg.

On the new vaccines contracts, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “These new deals will future- proof the Great British vaccination effort – which has so far delivered more than 115 million first, second and booster jabs across the UK – and will ensure we can protect even more people in the years ahead. This is a national mission and our best weapon to deal with this virus and its variants is to get jabs in arms – so when you are called forward, get the jab and get boosted”.

Officials added that the UK remains committed to donating 100 million doses to countries in need by mid-2022, donating more than 30 million vaccines by the end of 2021, with plans for donations totalling 70 million doses so far.

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