Boris Johnson 'ignored plan' for jab-resistant Covid variants, says ex-vaccine boss

The former head of the Government’s vaccine taskforce has claimed that Government ignored his plan to prepare for the vaccine-resistant Covid strains.

Clive Dix, who chaired the taskforce until April, claimed the UK was no longer “on the front foot” in tackling the pandemic.

His comments came as Boris Johnson announced new Covid restrictions to curb the spread of a worrying new variant, as the Government scrambles to save Christmas.

Masks will become compulsory in shops and on public transport from Tuesday, and close contacts of an Omicron case will have to isolate for 10 days even if they are double vaccinated.

International arrivals will also have to take a PCR test rather than a cheaper lateral flow from Tuesday.

Scientists are racing to get to grips with the Omicron strain, which was first detected in South Africa and has since spread to several countries, including the UK.

Boris Johnson 'ignored plan' for jab-resistant Covid variants, says ex-vaccine boss
© Former Chairman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce Clive Dix sounded the alarm over preparations for vaccine-resistant variants

Experts are concerned it may be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant, with fears that existing vaccines could be less effective against it.

“I wrote a very specific proposal on what we should put in place right now for the emergence of any new virus that escaped the vaccine,” he told the Observer.

“That was written and handed into the [vaccine taskforce] at the end of April when I left. I haven’t seen a sign of any of those activities yet.

“I sent a note to No 10 [in May] saying I think this is still an emergency and it should be dealt with urgently – and I want it on public record that you’ve got my proposal.

“But I didn’t even get a response to that. I prodded the Government and said, ‘what’s going on, because we need to do this’. I don’t see any of that going on.”

He added: “I think it’s time to ask the vaccine taskforce and the Government, what is your plan for an escape variant?

“What is your plan for resilience for the future? Let’s see it because I think the country needs to know.”

Dr Dix wanted a coordinating team to pursue new vaccines and to give companies involved a “fast track” to a swift trial, access to the data and regulatory approval, in exchange for early access to new vaccines.

The UK was a world leader in the speed of the vaccine rollout thanks to the success of the taskforce.

A government spokesperson said: “This past year we’ve witnessed unprecedented scientific innovations and breakthroughs, made possible by collaboration between medical experts, governments and industry.

“Earlier this year, we joined the 100 Days Mission, which will ensure industry is part of a robust collaboration alongside governments, international organisations and academia over the coming months and years to take action towards a common goal: protecting people from future pandemics through developing and deploying safe, targeted and effective diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines at scale.”

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