A HUGE vaccine centre at Harwell is set to manufacture vaccines for Covid-19.

The Vale of White Horse District Council has granted an unusual fast-track planning permission for the specialist facility that will house the UK’s Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC).

VMIC is a not for profit organisation based at Harwell Campus near Didcot.

The district council allowed construction of the facility to begin whilst the planning application was being processed because of the critical nature of the facility and the role it will play in manufacturing vaccines including coronavirus vaccines.

Usually planning approval on a construction on this scale would take years, with construction only starting once planning permission had been granted. However, the district council fast-tracked the application process so work could take place behind the scenes.

Councillor Emily Smith, leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “I’m delighted we have been able to grant planning permission for the new Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre.

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“I’m very proud that we will have a building of such national and international importance in the Vale and I am particularly pleased that as a district council we have played a significant role in ensuring it can be delivered as quickly as possible.”

By allowing VMIC to have a fast-tracked planning application the vaccine manufacturer gained three months allowing them to go from a grass-covered site to a ‘superstructure’.

Cliff Dare, chief operating officer of Harwell Campus and development manager for the VMIC build, said: “Working on the Government’s main effort at the forefront of our Nation’s fight against Covid-19 was always going to be an exceptionally challenging project.

“Delivering the building almost a year early demanded a united approach. The district council team has enabled construction to move quicker than we ever expected but this would also not have been possible without the positive relationships established between the talented and dedicated people working across every part of this vital project.”

An additional government grant of £93m was awarded to the vaccine manufacturer, VMIC in May 2020 to help bring the build of the facility forward to 2021, a year ahead of the original scheduled date.

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As well as helping fast-track the build the grant has helped VMIC invested in more technology to increase its manufacturing capacity 20-fold.

Now the organisation is aiming to be capable of producing 70m pandemic vaccine doses in four to six months.

The University of Oxford is currently researching, testing and creating a vaccine for Covid-19.

In April this year the first human clinical trials began and in July results showed ‘double protection’, meaning some healthy adults had blood samples indicating the vaccine stimulated the body to produce both antibodies and ‘killer T-cells’.