A covid variant which is able to evade vaccine immunity could take the world by surprise, according to Britain’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
Speaking at a virtual Royal Society conference, Vallance also warned that the “world needs to be ready” for inevitable future pandemics which will look very different to the current one.
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The mission works towards a target of being able to develop effective vaccines, therapeutics and testing within 100 days of an epidemic or pandemic threat being identified.
Sir Patrick told the Royal Society meeting: “It’s very obvious to everyone in this meeting that there will be a future pandemic.
“That I think is clear.
“It’s also clear this one is not over and we’ve got very high infection rates at the moment.
“And the room for this virus to evolve remains very large, so we could be taken by surprise again with a variant that escapes immunity.”
He added: “We’ve got no idea what the next pandemic might be and it certainly won’t be the same as this one.
“Whatever it is, the world needs to be ready to respond.”
Sir Patrick also said he is “pleased” that “a big uplift” of £5 billion in funding up to 2025 for life sciences research, including work aiming to prevent future pandemics, was included in the Spending Review.
But he added that a decade of “underfunding” for Public Health England (PHE) undermined the UK’s response to the pandemic in 2020.
He said: “Some things were underfunded, and that underfunding undermined the ability operationally to do things.
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