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Former vaccines chief sounds warning about UK pandemic readiness

The UK is not in a significantly better place to deal with a new pandemic, the former vaccine taskforce chief has said, as a leading public health expert suggested Covid infections may be on the rise again.

Dame Kate Bingham, the managing partner at the life sciences venture capital firm SV Health Investors, headed the UK’s vaccine taskforce between May and December 2020. 

Speaking to a joint session of the Commons health and social care committee and the science and technology committee, about lessons learned during the pandemic, Bingham said many of the initiatives set up by the taskforce had been dismantled, while key recommendations it had provided had not been acted upon.

“To begin with, I thought it was lack of experience of officials since we don’t have a lot of people within Whitehall who understand vaccines, relationships with industry, all of that, but actually, I’m beginning to think this is deliberate government policy, just not to invest or not to support the sector,” she said.

Among her concerns, Bingham cited the failure to create bulk antibody-manufacturing capabilities in the UK and the proposed termination of the NHS Covid vaccine research registry through which the public could indicate their willingness to participate in clinical trials for Covid vaccines.

The decision by the National Institute for Health and Care Research to close the registry was eventually reversed after Robert Jenrick, then a health minister, stepped in.

“I am baffled as to the decisions that are being made,” she said.

Bingham also raised concerns about the length of time it is taking to agree a contract with Moderna – a US-based company that produces mRNA Covid vaccines – to create a research and development, and manufacturing, facility in the UK.

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Source: The Guardian, 30 November 2022


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