"This fantastic new partnership means we can work to swiftly tweak and rollout new variations of existing vaccines if we need to", Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said.
The government said that two vaccines in its toolbox — Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca — were proven effective against the existing mutant strains, while the alliance will help it prepare for the emergence of new variants in the long term.
Vaccines to combat COVID-19 variants will be updated in the same way as seasonal flu shots. They will all be based on a CureVac vaccine candidate, which is in phase 3 of clinical trials.
"We must be prepared for all eventualities and bolster onshore UK manufacturing capacity to develop vaccines to combat new variants of the disease", Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
Under the deal, the United Kingdom has placed an initial order for 50 million doses of new vaccines to be delivered later this year if they are required, on top of the 407 million doses of a variety of vaccines already secured by the government.