Livingston Covid vaccine maker Valneva calls for apology from UK Government and has not ruled out legal action

The makers of the Livingston-produced Covid-19 vaccine have called for an apology from the UK Government for casting doubt on the success of the jag after pulling out of a £1.2 billion deal.

Valneva also said it had held separate talks with the Scottish Government, with a view to supplying Scotland separately. All vaccines so far have been procured on a UK-wide basis.

In September, the UK Government scrapped its agreement with the French pharmaceutical company, which has a major vaccine plant in Livingston, just months after increasing its order for doses by 40 million.

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The cancellation came amid allegations of a breach of the agreement, which Valneva “strenuously” denied.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the French biotechnology laboratory Valneva in Livingston in January. Picture: PAPrime Minister Boris Johnson visited the French biotechnology laboratory Valneva in Livingston in January. Picture: PA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the French biotechnology laboratory Valneva in Livingston in January. Picture: PA

Valneva chief financial officer David Lawrence said the move had damaged Valneva’s reputation and warned the firm would not rule out seeking "legal recourse" for loss of earnings and damages.

"We had to do a lot of work to rebuild and restore confidence in the vaccine," he said in an interview with BBC Radio Scotland on Thursday. "As to legal recourse, we haven't ruled out any of our options yet."

UK health secretary Sajid Javid said in Westminster after announcing the cancellation of the deal that it was "clear to us that the vaccine in question that the company was developing would not get approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency here in the UK".

However, he later amended his comments in the Parliament's official record to say Valneva's vaccine had not yet got and may not get approval. The decision sparked a 35 per cent drop in Valneva’s share price at the time.

Mr Lawrence said Mr Javid's comments were "very clearly wrong" and "we'd love to hear an apology from him".

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Covid Scotland: cancellation of vaccine contract a ‘shock’ for Valneva

The results of Valneva's clinical trial have since been published. It was understood at the time the dispute could have been connected to logistics and delivery schedules, linked to a shortage of manufacturing materials and HGV drivers due to Brexit.

Mr Lawrence said: "Our clinical data wasn't ready and available at that time, and we've since reported it to show that our vaccine looks great.

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"That apology would help many potential customers understand he made a mistake and there was nothing wrong with our vaccine."

Valneva had received a visit from Prime Minister Boris Johnson in January, just months before the contract was cancelled.

On Wednesday, the European Commission agreed a contract to supply up to 60 million doses of the Valneva jab, subject to approval by the European Medicines Agency.

The Scottish Government has said it would continue to engage with Valneva on a regular basis. It was announced in August the vaccine agreement had led to the creation of 200 extra jobs at the Livingston site, potentially leaving them under threat as a result of the cancellation of the contract.

A spokeswoman said: "We will consider using any vaccine approved by the regulatory bodies."

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Whilst we cannot comment on commercial decisions, this will have no impact on our vaccine supplies for the autumn.

“Clinical trials for the Valneva candidate vaccine have not yet been completed. As such, our independent medicines regulator – the MHRA – has not approved the Valneva candidate vaccine for use in the UK.”

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