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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Boris Johnson has ‘no plans’ to put Union Jack on Oxford coronavirus vaccine

Boris Johnson’s spokesman rebuffed the suggestion following reports that a Government team wanted to see the national flag on the packaging for the jab.

The newly formed “Union unit” – which is tasked with quelling campaigns to break up the UK – made the request for patriotic branding, Whitehall sources told the Telegraph.

However, their hopes were dashed, and the Prime Minister’s spokesman announced categorically on Friday: “There are no plans for the Union Jack to be on doses.”

He continued: “We’ve said previously the manufacturing for some of the leading potential vaccines is already under way so they can be rolled out quickly if and when approved.

“Manufacturers are well versed in the best ways to package products like this.”

Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine, co-developed by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, is currently being assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in the UK.

The Government has pre-ordered 100 million doses of the potential jab, which has faced sharp scrutiny over the past week after questions were raised about the results of its trials.

AstraZeneca said it will most likely carry out a further global clinical trial to assess the efficacy of the jab after a surprise result found 90 per cent protection was achieved when people were given a half dose followed by a full dose.

The pharmaceutical giant has acknowledged the finding was as a result of a dosing error, but said it did not expect any new trial to delay regulatory approval in countries including the UK.

US scientists questioned a lack of detail in the trial results published last week, and the scientific head of the US’s Operation Warp Speed – the programme to supply America with vaccines – told US reporters the half-dose regime was only given to people aged 55 and under.

Scientists across the globe are hoping to find vaccines that work in older people – the group who are most at risk from Covid-19.

What does the Oxford vaccine announcement mean for the population?

Helen Fletcher, professor of immunology at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine: “It’s not surprising if some manufacturing issues were still being ironed out when they started clinical trials but early stage trials are all about safety and the safety data we have seen has been very robust.”

She said it was important to wait for the full dataset to be published.

Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at LSHTM, said: “The way the data are put together will have been specified in the protocol and scrutinised very carefully by regulators to ensure that there is no ‘cherry picking’ of the results.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday: “We are working tirelessly to be in the best possible position to deploy a vaccine as soon as one is approved by the independent regulator the MHRA.

“We have formally asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, to understand the data and determine whether it meets rigorous safety standards.”

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