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House of Commons Hansard
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29 April 2020
Volume 675
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What steps the Government are taking to support innovative research in (a) the UK and (b) throughout the world in the development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics for covid-19. [902041]

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What steps she is taking to ensure that a vaccine developed for covid-19 will be available globally on an equitable and affordable basis. [902044]

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What steps the Government are taking to support innovative research in (a) the UK and (b) throughout the world in the development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics for covid-19. [902047]

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Science can help us to deal with this crisis. To date, the UK has committed more than £330 million to innovative research and development of vaccines, rapid diagnostics and promising therapeutics for the coronavirus. The UK is the world’s top donor to CEPI, which is helping to produce a vaccine, including at Oxford and Imperial. We are also funding innovative research on virus tests and antibody tests right here in the UK, which could be suitable for use in developing countries. On Friday, the UK proudly stood with the WHO, the UN and 20 countries to work for global access to vaccines to end the pandemic, save lives and start the global economic recovery.

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Carshalton and Wallington residents know that the development of a coronavirus vaccine is the greatest opportunity to save lives across the world. Will the Minister confirm that the UK is one of the largest global donors to the international Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is at the fore- front of this global research?

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I can confirm that the UK Government have committed £250 million to the international Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, to rapidly develop coronavirus vaccines. This is the largest contribution of any country to CEPI’s covid-19 efforts to date, and it is a major contribution to global efforts to accelerate vaccine discovery. In ensuring that a vaccine is available to all, including the world’s poorest countries, we are asking all Governments to contribute to this important international goal as a down payment against the wider funding needs of the covid-19 response.

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We have all witnessed the battle for access to the drug Orkambi for children in this country. What consideration have the Government given to requests for a patent-free vaccine, thus ensuring that the millions of pounds ploughed in by British taxpayers recognise the truly global nature of the crisis and secure a vaccine for all, rather than a fight over excessive pricing and huge profits for four or five pharmaceutical corporations?

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This is a very important point because of course a globally accessible vaccine, alongside effective tests and treatments, is needed to end this global pandemic and to start global economic recovery. This will need unprecedented global collaboration and resourcing to drive the speed and scale that are needed, and the UK is at the forefront of global efforts to meet this challenge. Now is the time for us to come together to develop and deliver vaccines, tests and treatments that are safe, effective, affordable and accessible to all.

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The UK is the World Health Organisation’s second largest funder, yet that agency has been found wanting and subject to political interference by the Chinese Communist party. After this pandemic, will the Government look at a new world health order, as suggested by the recent Foreign Affairs Committee report?

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My hon. Friend is right to recognise that international co-operation is absolutely vital to tackle covid-19. That is why we are working with the WHO and other international organisations to develop and deliver a globally accessible vaccine, alongside effective tests and treatments, and because of this we want to ensure they are safe, effective, affordable and accessible for all, including the world’s poorest.

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This week is World Immunisation Week. Every year millions of lives are saved thanks to immunisations, and it is recognised widely as one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions. With DFID funding going into the global effort to tackle this health crisis, can the Secretary of State explain what safeguards she has implemented to ensure that UK public contributions to the research into and development of covid-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines will be guaranteed to every person, and to assure the British public that public money is not just going into lining the pockets of big pharmaceutical companies?

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Of course, while we are focusing on covid-19, there is the broader issue of vaccines. The UK is already one of the biggest global donors. To date, we have pledged £744 million to support the international response to covid-19. We have also funded £40 million for the Wellcome and Mastercard therapeutics accelerator initiative, up to £23 million for the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, and up to £5 million through the joint initiative on research for epidemic preparedness. Because we are faced with a global pandemic, we absolutely need an international response, and it is about making sure that vaccines reach all those who need them.