100 day vaccine goal a ‘really tall order’
Posted on the 8th August 2023
Ambitious plans by the UK government to stop a pandemic with a new vaccine within 100 days are “way behind”, according to a leading Professor of Infection & Immunity.
Sir Andrew Pollard was speaking as the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) unveiled its Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre (VDEC) at the Porton Down science and defence technology campus in Wiltshire.
Over 200 scientists at the site will study pathogens with pandemic potential and test new and existing vaccines on diseases.
It is hoped their work will contribute to the 100 days mission, a global goal set by the G7 in 2021 with the aim of deploying a vaccine against any new pandemic threat within 100 days of identification.
However, Sir Andrew, chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, called the goal “a really tall order” that is “going to need a lot of investment to do the research”.
He said: “Here, at the Pandemic Sciences Centre in Oxford, we’re working on many different diseases which could potentially threaten human populations in the future.
“We’re learning a lot about what the rules are that allow us to rapidly develop new vaccines and we will work in collaboration with the UKHSA and their new pandemic vaccine centre.”
Asked if the 100 days mission is feasible, Sir Andrew said “20 years of homework” on coronaviruses before the outbreak of Covid-19 had sped up the development of vaccines for the virus.
“One of the things that’s perhaps good news here is that science is really advancing very fast.
“But at the moment, if you look at Covid, it was 300 days to develop a vaccine. The Government want us to be down at 100 days, and that’s a really tall order. It’s going to need a lot of investment to do the research that brings us to that point.”
The launch of VDEC comes after the UK’s preparedness for a pandemic was scrutinized in the first public hearings of the Covid-19 Inquiry earlier this summer.
The probe found past governments had focused too much on preparing for influenza rather than studying other bacteria or viruses.
It is hoped VDEC will allow the UK to better prepare for emerging threats, including “Disease X”, a yet-to-be identified pathogen that scientists warn will cause the next pandemic.