Boris Johnson has been accused of ignoring a plan by senior officials to prepare Britain for the emergence of vaccine-resistant Covid variants, the Observer may reveal.
With the the government announced on Saturday that the first UK cases of the Omicron variant had been detected, the former head of the government’s vaccine task force said he could see no evidence that his plan to tackle the most disturbing variants submitted in the spring had been implemented.
In an interview with the ObserverDrugs development figurehead Clive Dix who chaired the task force until April said he believes the UK is no longer at the forefront in tackling the pandemic . I wrote a very specific proposal on what we should put in place right now for the emergence of any new virus that has escaped the vaccine, he said. This was written and delivered to the [vaccine taskforce] end of April when I left. I have yet to see any sign of any of these activities.
I sent a note to No 10 [in May] saying I think this is still an emergency and needs to be dealt with urgently and I want it made public that you have my proposal. But I didn’t even get an answer to that. I pushed the government and said: What is going on, because we have to do it. I don’t see any of this happening.
He added: I think it’s time to ask the vaccine task force and the government, what’s your plan for an escape variant? What is your resilience plan for the future? Let’s see this because I think the country needs to know.
His criticisms echoed those of Kate Bingham, the first chair of the vaccine task force, who warned in a speech last week: If we had relied on the existing machinery of government, the result [of the vaccine programme] could have been very different. Dominic Cummings, the former chief adviser to the Prime Minister, also called on the government to release its plans to tackle vaccine-resistant variants of Covid.
As part of the Dixs strategy, a coordination team would research new vaccines, give the company involved a fast track to a rapid trial, access to data and regulatory approval, in exchange for rapid access to new ones. vaccines. He said this system was working when the pandemic started and should be repeated.
He warned that simply waiting to buy vaccines once they were developed, Britain would find itself at the back of the pack as large customers would be prioritized. If we leave it to the industry to do that, it will go to the highest bidder, and the UK will no longer be at the top of that line, because it’s not a big market. Whereas if you act as a partner, you get things done. It’s not rocket science, and the infrastructure is there.
He said he envisioned French company Valneva as a key part of this process. However, he said the government’s ridiculous decision to cancel his existing contract with the company had hampered this approach.
Although he said the Omicron variant now detected in the UK was likely to be more resistant to current vaccines, he hoped this wouldn’t necessarily lead to an increase in serious illness and death. The current variant that’s coming up is a beast, he said. It contains a lot of mutations and it is likely that the antibodies we have already generated from the vaccines will be less effective. They are less effective against the Delta variant in preventing people from getting infected, but they are effective in preventing people from getting seriously ill or dying.
I think this will hold up with the South African variant. The reason they keep people from getting seriously ill and dying is not the antibody response. It is the longer term cellular immune response. And it’s pretty obvious now that this is what keeps people from going to the hospital and dying. So I’m pretty sure that answer won’t falter.
A government spokesperson said: Over the past year we have witnessed unprecedented innovations and scientific breakthroughs made possible by collaboration between medical experts, governments and industry.
Earlier this year, we joined the 100 day mission, which will ensure that the industry is part of a strong collaboration with governments, international organizations and academia over the months and years to come to take action towards a common goal: protecting people from future pandemics by developing and deploying safe, targeted and effective diagnostics, treatments and treatments. large-scale vaccines.
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