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Scaling Up Vaccine Preparation Before It Was Even Approved Is Why UK Rollout Is "Far Ahead" Of The EU, Kate Bingham Says

2 min read

The UK got a head start on vaccine roll-out by scaling up manufacturing nearly a year ago, before the government signed contracts with pharmaceutical companies, according to former chair of the UK vaccine taskforce, Kate Bingham.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday, Bingham said that the reason the UK was racing ahead of the EU with its vaccine roll out “was the fact that we actually started scaling up the manufacturing for the Oxford vaccine from February”.

She said: “So yes, we signed the contract and terms of agreement with AZ in May, but actually the work to scale up the manufacturing started months before that.

“And that’s early work that was done by the industry – voluntarily, not based on contracts or requirements, but a voluntary coalition of the different companies – that is ultimately made the difference to why we are so far ahead.”

Bingham, who Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed to lead the UK’s vaccines effort, played down the chances the EU would impose restrictions on vaccine exports to the UK amid an ongoing row between Brussels and AstraZeneca over the pharmaceutical firm’s delivery of the Oxford vaccine to EU member states.

"I just don’t believe it’ll ever come to that,” she said. “We are interdependent and I don’t think the idea that there are going to be trade barriers is something that we should be considering”.

Bingham said she “had a massive smile” on her face and “broke the dry January rule and had a glass of wine” when she heard the news that the coronavirus vaccine developed by Novovax, of which the UK has ordered 60 million doses, was shown to be 89.3% effective in trials.

The jab is being made in the northeast of England and once approved by medical regulators is expected to be rolled out to the public in the second half of 2021.

Bingham revealed that the UK vaccine taskforce was looking at “more much scalable and distributable” ways of delivering vaccines, which included pills, patches, and nose sprays.

“We need to improve the vaccines formats because frankly, two injections delivered by health care professionals is not a good way of delivering vaccines,” she said.

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