The Science and Technology Select Committee, which Nicola chairs, published its report into the UK response to the Ebola outbreak.
The report has found that the Ebola epidemic exposed the UK’s lack of readiness for an infectious disease emergency, warning that the Government must ensure it is better prepared to mobilise scientific expertise and manufacture a vaccine in future.
The inquiry identified systemic delays at every stage of the Government’s response to Ebola: from escalating Public Health England’s disease surveillance data to convening a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) —the main mechanism for channelling scientific advice to Government in an emergency.
Further, vaccine and drug trials often need to be conducted during a disease outbreak, but neither the UK, nor the international community, were ‘research ready’ when the outbreak occurred. The report is calling on the Government and Chief Medical Officer to embed research into future emergency responses and negotiate with vaccine manufacturers to ensure capabilities can be called on quickly in an emergency.
To read the report in full, click here.
The Committee will shortly be taking evidence on the outbreak of the Zika virus from medical experts.
Nicola says Scientists, health workers and agencies did a heroic job working around the clock to confront the Ebola outbreak, sometimes at risk to their own lives. But the UK response to Ebola – like the international one – was undermined by systematic delay. The Government’s emergency response procedures were triggered far too late in the day, Ebola test kits were developed and trialled, but not deployed, and the initial response was ad hoc and uncoordinated.
A combination of hard work and chance prevented Ebola spreading further than it did, but a future epidemic may be less containable and spread within the UK as well as overseas. We must take the opportunity now to ensure that the UK is not caught unprepared when the next disease emergency strikes. Lives can be lost for every day of delay.