Britain is one of the country’s that is leading the way in developing a lifesaving vaccine against the killer virus. On Monday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock told journalists that the UK was at the “front of the global effort” and had invested more money than any other country. He announced £42.5 million in funding for two projects being undertaken by Oxford University and Imperial College London.
He said: “Both of these promising projects are making rapid progress and I’ve told the scientists leading them we will do everything in our power to support.
“After all, the upside of being the first country in the world to develop a successful vaccine is so huge that I am throwing everything at it.”
However, government officials and ministers have steadfastly refused to give any assurances that Britons would be first in the queue to benefit from the development of a vaccine.
The UK’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty would only commit to saying that the UK would want “early access”, when quizzed by journalists at Wednesday night’s Downing Street press briefing.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman also declined to give any commitments on priority access to any COVID-19 vaccine.
The spokeman told reporters: “We are using public money in a number of ways and that also includes developing vaccines overseas.
“When you are responding to a pandemic of this kind countries will want to work together to ensure it can be mass produced so everyone can benefit from it.
“We want to mass produce them so everyone in the UK can get it as soon as possible.”
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Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, told the Daily Telegraph: “It may come from the US or Europe, but it’s just as likely it will come from India, China or Cuba. “The whole world will need it, and that’s what is behind the global collaboration on this.”
He pointed out that during the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009 rich nations bought up vaccines, thereby denying access to poorer countries.
Sir Jeremy explained: “In 2009 there were real issues around this during the pandemic of H1N1… and there was a retreat to nationalism. We have to avoid that this time.”
There are over 70 vaccines or COVID-19 currently in development, according to the World Health Organisation.
The race to be the first to produce a vaccine is being led by three teams, one from China and two from the United States.
All three have already started to test their vaccines on humans.