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UK becoming more vulnerable to future pandemics: Government committee

A new report published by the UK Government‘s Science and Technology Select Committee has found that the UK is not well-placed to respond to pandemics and novel epidemics.

As the title suggests, the report ‘Science in emergencies: UK lessons from Ebola’ looked at the lessons that can be learned from the Ebola crisis response. It found that, in a future global pandemic or in a UK epidemic outbreak, the country would be more vulnerable than in the past due to the degradation of the UK’s ability to manufacture enough vaccine to vaccinate UK citizens in an emergency. To respond to this vulnerability, the report recommends that the Government “acts now and negotiates with vaccine manufacturers to establish pre-agreed access to manufacturing capabilities that can be called upon quickly in an emergency.”

Other key points from the report include:

  • The UK Ebola response - like the international response - was undermined by systemic delay. The biggest lesson that must be learnt from this outbreak of Ebola is that even minor delays in responding cost lives. Rapid reaction is essential for any hope of success in containing an outbreak.
  • The UK and other countries were not ‘research ready’ when the outbreak began, prompting a less than optimal and uncoordinated research response.
  • Rapid and reliable communication is integral to delivering an effective response to a disease emergency but throughout the Ebola outbreak the systems to share advice, expertise, epidemiological and clinical data were inadequate.
  • The Government’s communications on Ebola with the UK public were accurate and balanced, but it was disappointing that the Government failed to explain why it went against guidance from the World Health Organization and Public Health England and introduced screening for Ebola at UK ports of entry. ┬áThe report recommends that “when interventions like screening are instigated during an emergency, the Government makes the evidential basis for the intervention explicit.”

Read the full report (PDF).



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