A new Covid-19 vaccine developed by French firm Valneva has been given regulatory approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The UK was due to receive 100 million doses of the jab, but the Government cancelled the deal in September due to a “breach of obligations”.

The independent medicines regulator is the first in the world to approve the Valneva product, MHRA said in a statement.

This is the sixth Covid-19 vaccine to receive MHRA authorisation.

It comes as the number of deaths involving coronavirus registered each week in England and Wales continues to rise, although levels remain well below those reached during previous waves of the virus.

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The NHS Confederation has said very high rates of Covid-19 infections are having a “major impact” on the health service, which is facing pressures it would see in a “bad winter” well into spring.

However, Downing Street has rejected the call to reintroduce greater mask-wearing and a push to encourage mixing outdoors.

What is the Valneva vaccine?

The Valneva vaccine is a whole-virus inactivated Covid-19 vaccine. This is the first vaccine of its type to gain regulatory approval in the UK.

This type of vaccine is created by first growing the virus in a lab. It is then made completely inactive so that it cannot infect cells or replicate in the body. 

However, it can still trigger an immune response to the Covid-19 virus. This process is widely used already in the production of flu and polio vaccines.

The former chairwoman of the country’s vaccine taskforce last year said Government may have “acted in bad faith” in the way it cancelled the deal for the Valneva vaccine.

Dame Kate Bingham, who stood down from her role at the end of 2020, criticised the decision to pull out of the agreement before Valneva had finished clinical testing of the vaccine.

The decision was not only a blow to international pandemic efforts but would dampen the UK’s resilience to future disease outbreaks, Dame Kate said in a speech at Oxford University in November.

Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said: "Our approval of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Valneva today follows a rigorous review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of this vaccine, and expert advice from the government’s independent scientific advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines.”