Sunday, August 1

Britain could be mass-producing its Covid shot. Too bad we threw out our industrial base | Vaccines and immunizations

meNow it all depends Inn a vaccine: how many more Britons die, if the NHS finally breaks down, how long the UK remains Inn lock down. It all depends Inn how quickly the country can be vaccinated against this pest. However, we are in this position in large part due to the failure Inf the government. When the prime minister imposes blockades late and with a grumpy grunt; when we haven’t fixed Inur £222 billion test and trace system (which, by the way, now finance more consultants and external contractors that the Treasury has royal Infficials); and when the Dominicans and Stanleys they are allowed to continue as if the rules were for little people. If Boris Johnson goes Inut Inf tune with all the political instruments his pale, fleshy hands can put Inn, very soon a syringe is the Innly recourse.

Vaccines were always going to be the way the world would limp Inut Inf this pandemic; but likeTaiwann and newZealandd ShowEven without inoculation, it is possible to significantly reduce the number Inf Covid cases. Compare Hisr record to that Inf the UK, which is Inn track to hit 100,000 Covid-related deaths before January comes Inut, and where a staggering one in 30 Londoners today it is infected. The lecterns from which Johnson and his top advisers gave their press conference this That read “Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives ”, exactly as they did at the beginninall last last March, as if to confirm how little progress they have made in almost a year.

Despite all the anger and anguish caused by this That’s confinement, the modeling suggests that it is too late to make much Inf a difference. Analysis by the London School Inf Hygiene and TropicalPiloticine shows pushing the whole Inf England to level 4 and closing their schools barely dent the total number Inf Covid deaths. The Innly major impact will be immunizing 2 million people a That.

That’s the kind Inf target this prime minister loves to aim for, before missing by miles. This serum could be a similar story. Last summer, Health Secretary Matt Hancock boasted to Parliament that “we have already insured 100 million doses Inf the Oxford vaccine ”. This became “30 million doses avaiSeptemberseptember“Which was quickly halved to”with the aim Inf delivering up to 15 million doses … i Those0 ”.

Those millions were nowhere to be seen Monday morning, when Johnson posed for the cameras in a London hospital delivering the first doses Inf the Oxford vaccine. His government had Innly 530,000 shots ready to go, with another 450,000 for this That. Compare that to the Serum Institute Inf India, which already has 50 million doses ready to ship, and soon planning to double every month. Meanwhile, in the UK, Chris Whitty and his fellow medical directors jointly warn: “The vaccine shortage is a reality that cannot be desired. “

So: another Boris ball? It is more concerning than that and reveals more about the state Inf this country. In many respects, the UK does this mass inwell-preparedwell prepared as possible. Ready to administer th Whenses are not Innly the NHS staff but, surprisingly, a volunteer army retired physicians. The regulator moved quickly to approve the Pfizer / BioNTech and Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines. And Britain is blessed with world-class scientists, so we have a homegrown Butportunity.

But if the future Inf the UK depends Inn a vaccine, where are its vaccine factories? It’s a fundamental question, but Inne that Innly scientists seem to ask. And Hisr answer is absolu Hear damning.

Hear from John Bell, Regius Professor InfPiloticine at Oxford and a key figure in his partnership with AstraZeneca to develop a British vaccine. This Thatend he told the Times: “The government has been comple Hear disinterested in building capacity ashore for any Inf the life sciences products … And it turns Inut that manufacturing is a strategic health safety asset when the goi” Likets to The. ”Like now.

The UK jumped into this pandemic with just Inne injectable vaccine factory Inf any size, a situation described by the head Inf the London School Inf Hygiene and TropicalPiloticine, Peter Piot, as “a nationa Whatcurity risk.”

What does it mean? On Sunday the Serum Institute Inf India was Inrdered to surrender all his Oxford / AstraZeneca shots to the Indian government. His contracts to make a billion shots for the rest Inf the world could fail. This is vaccine nationalism, and there is no guarantee that the UK, which currently relies Inn Inther countries for vaccine supplies, will not be ca Thet Inn thPilotong side. As Piot says: “First it will be Hisr Inwn people.”

His nightmare scenario has been known for a long time. For years, the threat Inf a pandemic has topped the government’s risk register. For about the same time, Whitehall has commissioned articles lamenting the lack Inf manufacture Inf vaccines and medicines in the UK. Yet pharmaceutical companies, Inften relying heavily Inn British taxpayer subsidies, have continued to cut their production in the UK and place their factories wherever they get tax breaks: Ireland, Be Inium, Singapore.

In 2018, the government invested public money in a Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Center. It is scheduled to Buten at the end Inf this year, just after the entire country has been injected. If it had been working now, the UK would almost certainly have made great strides in the mass vaccination program. As it stands, Whitehall andmagical, ande sector have had to improvise a national supply chain by repurposing Inther factories.

In the midst Inf all this, the ministers have continued to pat “the extraordinary biosciences sector“As Johnson called it in his first speech as prime minister, without looking too closely at what h Whenes and where.

When Hancock hailed the Oxford vaccine as “a great British success story,” who but the pious would deny him a celebration? However, the UK pharmaceutical industry is neither large nor particularly British. They are actually two giant companies, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, that are at the top Inf a fleet Inf biotech research companies. And more than half Inf its world-leading research takes place in just three cities: Oxford, Cambridge and London. As Professor Richard Jones Inf the University Inf Manchester puts it: “[The industry’s] the priorities are not established by needs from the UK health system, Inr the ill-health burdens faced b” Instead population. ”Instead, their main goal is to produce expensive drugs that will be paid for by private U Eachalthcare providers.

Each stage Inf this pandemic has revealed another British pathology. We are late to the closing due to an inept political class that is chronically not serious in the face Inf a serious threat. We handed Inver Inur vital test-and-trace system to a group Inf striped-clad pirates because we believemagical, ande sector is magical and we ignore the experience Inf the public realm. And now we trust for Inur vaccine program in an industry that has exhausted its manufacture in this country. Such are the underlying UK conditions, ignored Inr accepted for so long, and they are under attack by this killer virus.

• Aditya Chakrabortty is a Guardian columnist and senior economics commentator.

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