Government needs to improve UK readiness for next epidemic
- 26 January 2016
The House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee have released a report which details their concerns about the Government’s readiness for a future epidemic similar to that of the Ebola outbreak in 2013.
More than 11,000 people died in West Africa in the largest ever outbreak of Ebola.
The report draws attention to various systematic delays and failures in coordination which undermined the UK’s ability to respond to the recent epidemic in West Africa.
The group of cross-party MPs point out that the UK was unable to conduct clinical trials of new vaccinations, treatments and diagnostics sufficiently early in the outbreak, costing lives and future opportunities. The report also highlights the inadequacy of both the speed with which emergency response committees were established.
The Science and Technology Committee are ‘not convinced, […] that the Government has looked ahead and considered how a more timely, co-ordinated and robust response could be achieved when the next epidemic emerges'. They are also concerned that the UK ‘lacks the capability’ to make enough vaccines to vaccinate UK citizens in an emergency.
Dr Mark Downs CSci FRSB, chief executive of the Royal Society of Biology said:
"The Committee’s call to improve the UK’s readiness to detect and treat threatening diseases is very welcome. We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are highly connected to all parts of the world and must be ready to respond to biological threats to people, animals and plants. UK biosecurity capacity must include the ability to detect and prevent the spread of threats, and to deal with them when they do spread. Learning from past failures and then implementing that learning has to be a key priority."