COVID mark II: UK ‘far from ready’ for future pandemic – Digital Journal


WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says a breakthrough between the EU, US, India and South Africa in relinquishing intellectual property rights over Covid-19 vaccines is a big step forward . — © AFP/File CHARLY TRIBALLEAU

What would happen if another variant of SARS-CoV-2 caused a difficult-to-treat form of COVID-19? Or from another pathogen of concern was the emergence? (Or, perhaps more accurately, when it arises at some point in the future.)

How prepared are the authorities for another pandemic? If a country finds itself in the same situation as the UK, the answer seems to be that the nation is not very well prepared. This is the view expressed by the former head of the UK Vaccine Task Force.

Dame Kate Bingham has accused the UK Government of having “dismantled” structures put in place to deal with future pandemics. There also appears to be a lack of leadership in terms of understanding the potential threats from viruses, as well as having a competent person who can coordinate vaccine innovation, clinical development, and the complexities of manufacturing at scale.

Bingham made the comments during a joint session of the Commons Science and Technology and Health and Human Care committees. To members of parliament, Bingham said (cited by Medscape): “Maybe there is someone secretly doing that, but not from what I can see.”

He added: “We have the capacity in the country, but it cannot be done in a vacuum. We need to have a skilled leader who brings that together to keep us, or to try to get us back, in a better position.”

By contrast, Bingham sees the European Union in a stronger position and to “think about pandemic preparedness in a systematic, professional and effective way.” This is being promulgated through the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA).

bingham not sure if the UK government it has dismantled its structures through poor planning or design. She notes: “I’m starting to think this is actually deliberate government policy: not investing, not supporting the sector.”

Neil O’Brien, government minister for primary care and public health at the Department of Health and Social Care, has tried to explain that the structures are in place. Meanwhile, Bingham’s criticisms have been backed by Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, who told the same committee that he had noted “an absolutely dramatic reversal to what existed before the pandemic.”


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