He said the partnership would ensure the vaccine could be quickly rolled out, if it works.

“Once we get an approval by the regulators we don’t want to have to go back to the beginning and work out how we manufacture it at scale. 

“We also want to make sure that the rest of the world will be ready to make this vaccine at scale so that it gets to populations in developing countries, for example, where the need is very great.

“We really need a partner to do that and that partner has a big job in the UK because our manufacturing capacity in the UK for vaccines isn’t where it needs to be, and so we are going to work together with AstraZeneca to improve that considerably.”

He said the plans would mean preparing facilities to be able to produce 30 or 40 million doses of the vaccine in the first instance, as well as expanding production of the vials used to contain them. 

The global competition for vaccines meant shortages of such products, he stressed, meaning a “big and powerful partner” was needed in order to compete. 

Asked if Britain would get first priority if the vaccine succeeds, he said that around 30 million people who are vulnerable would be given the first round of jabs, but said Oxford was already talking to partners overseas to ensure they could also make it available quickly.

“We are very conscious of the fact that we do not want a lag in the availability of this vaccine between developed countries and developing countries,” he said. 

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