Ex-head of Government’s vaccine taskforce Kate Bingham warns UK is unprepared for Covid


Ex-head of Government’s vaccine taskforce Kate Bingham warns UK is unprepared for Covid 2.0 because of ‘dumbarse’ decisions in wake of the pandemic

The former head of the government’s vaccine taskforce has accused ministers of making ‘dumbarse’ decisions after the pandemic which could hit the country’s ability to deal with a future virus outbreak.

Dame Kate Bingham said huge efforts were made to build manufacturing capability for vaccines, while a pioneering database was created of people willing to undergo clinical trials.

The database included a far wider cross-section of society than usually participate in testing – which is essential for developing new treatments – and came about because far more people than normal were in touch with health services during the pandemic.

But she said: ‘The government has dismantled the manufacturing capability we had in place, closed the register (of potential triallists). They will have to (recreate) the same if another pandemic hits – that’s just dumbarse.’

Dame Kate also said that while in 2020 the government could use her and other advisers’ contacts within the major pharmaceutical companies, allowing the UK to spearhead global vaccine development, now ‘no-one in government can do that’.

Dame Kate Bingham has accused ministers of making 'dumbarse' decisions which could hit the country's ability to deal with a future virus outbreak

Dame Kate Bingham has accused ministers of making ‘dumbarse’ decisions which could hit the country’s ability to deal with a future virus outbreak

She revealed that the revealed ministers made an 'outrageous' decision forcing up to 500,000 vulnerable people to 'shield' when the Omicron variant of Covid was raging in late 2021

She revealed that the revealed ministers made an ‘outrageous’ decision forcing up to 500,000 vulnerable people to ‘shield’ when the Omicron variant of Covid was raging in late 2021

Speaking at the Buxton Literary Festival in Derbyshire, Dame Kate revealed ministers made an ‘outrageous’ decision forcing up to 500,000 vulnerable people to ‘shield’ when the Omicron variant of Covid was raging in late 2021 – in order to save money.

She revealed Britain was the only leading country not to spend on the treatment, which could have allowed those with severe health conditions to live their lives rather than stay at home.

Evushield was created by AstraZeneca alongside its vaccine – helping to boost the immune system of people with medical vulnerabilities.

Speaking on Friday to promote her book The Long Shot, co-authored by academic Tim Hames, Dame Kate said the government changed its mind and decided not to order any of the ‘highly effective’ treatment – administered in two doses – after its initial request for a million doses was rejected.

Dame Kate – who chaired the vaccine taskforce between May and December 2020 – said only two million doses were able to be produced and ministers were told ‘you can’t have half of global supply, how much do you really want?’.

She added: ‘Then they (the government) said it’s cheaper to allow (vulnerable people) to shield at home than it is to give them antibodies. I thought it was completely outrageous.’

In further criticism, she said the government’s post-pandemic decision to focus on the MRNA-type coronavirus vaccines such as those made by Pfizer and Moderna – when there are seven varieties now available – meant the UK’s current stocks ‘aren’t good enough’.

She also told how she viewed then health secretary Matt Hancock as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character in his demands and how he dealt with advisers such as herself.

Dame Kate recalled one occasion – when she cast doubt on an idea 30million vaccines could be ready by September 2020 – Hancock said: ‘Kate, so many experts have said to me that things aren’t possible, then they turn out possible, that I don’t believe you.’

A government spokesperson said: ‘Our pandemic response plans are continuously updated to reflect the latest scientific information, lessons learned from exercises and our response to emergencies, including Covid, and are kept under constant review to ensure preparedness.’

He added that the UK Health Security Agency is establishing a Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre to ‘speed up the development of new vaccines’.

It aims to ‘provide leadership, coordination and management of activities across vaccine research and discovery, development and evaluation, strengthening partnerships with industry and academia’.

‘We are also playing a leading role in the 100 Day Mission – a global collaboration which aims to make diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines available within 100 days of the emergence of a new pandemic threat.’



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