UK, four others agree to fast-track adapted COVID vaccines

LONDON (AFP) – Modified vaccines designed to protect against emerging coronavirus variants will get fast-track approval under a pact announced yesterday by medicines regulators in Britain and four other countries.

The agreement will avert the need for lengthy clinical studies if authorised vaccines are adapted in future, as long as the manufacturers offer “robust evidence” of their potency and safety, according to the agreement by the ACCESS Consortium.

The consortium comprises Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and counterparts from Australia, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland.

“Our priority is to get effective vaccines to the public in as short a time as possible, without compromising on safety,” MHRA Chief Scientific Officer Christian Schneider said in a statement.

“Should any modifications to authorised COVID-19 vaccines be necessary, this regulatory approach should help to do just that.

“The public should be confident that no vaccine would be approved unless the expected high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness are met.”

The approach is based on the “tried and tested” regulatory process used for seasonal influenza vaccines, which need to be adapted every year to combat new strains, the MHRA said.