Growing outcry over vaccine centre sell-off

Over the Christmas-New Year break more scientists joined a growing outcry against the government plan to sell off the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre UK (VMIC), which was first revealed by the Financial Times at the end of November.

The FT reports that at least four companies have tabled bids for the VMIC, including UK biotechnology company Oxford BioMedica, Swiss healthcare manufacturer Lonza, and Japanese conglomerate Fujifilm. 

The “offloading” of the Centre marks a major about-turn by government. Back in May 2020, then chief executive of UK Research and Innovation Professor Sir Mark Walport, welcoming fresh government investment to expand VMIC’s capacity, said it was “an essential new weapon in the UK’s arsenal against diseases and other biological threats.”

In December 2020 the UK Vaccine Taskforce’s document ‘2020 Achievements and Future Strategy’ also insisted on its long term importance: “We have worked with VMIC to increase VMIC’s delivery capability … to 70m doses of pandemic vaccine. … This is a permanent facility, with government step-in rights during a crisis.”

Immediate criticism of the planned sell-off came from experts working with VMIC. Sandy Douglas, a vaccine research leader at Oxford University, told the FT it had “accelerated Oxford’s vaccine programme by months” and “saved many lives”. 

Full story in The Lowdown, 6 January 2022

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