UK government announces coronavirus vaccine taskforce

17 April 2020, 17:19 | Updated: 17 April 2020, 18:00

Alok Sharma has announced a coronavirus vaccine taskforce
Alok Sharma has announced a coronavirus vaccine taskforce. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The UK government has set up a taskforce to develop a vaccine for coronavirus "at pace," the business secretary has announced.

Alok Sharma said the group would consist of experts from government, industries, academia and regulators working towards "a single goal" - to develop a vaccine for coronavirus.

The taskforce will report to the business secretary and the health secretary who will "support progress across all stages of vaccine development" and "at pace."

It will be led by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, and deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan van Tam.

Mr Sharma said the taskforce would position the UK as a "leader of manufacturing and testing" for a Covid-19 inoculation.

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It will be developed both at home and internationally so that when a vaccine becomes available it can be produced quickly and in large quantities.

Trials will be "both rapid and well supervised," he added.

A further 21 research projects have been given the green light by the government and they will receive £14 million in funding. This is in addition to six projects announced last month and a former £250 million pledge for vaccine development, the business secretary said.

Representatives will also include the government life sciences champion Sir John Bell, as well as AstraZeneca, and the Wellcome Trust.

"UK scientists are working as fast as they can to find a vaccine that fights coronavirus, saving and protecting people's lives," Mr Sharma said in the government's daily coronavirus press conference.

"We stand firmly behind them in their efforts.

"The vaccine taskforce is key to coordinating efforts to rapidly accelerate the development and manufacture of a potential new vaccine, so we can make sure it is widely available to patients as soon as possible."

It comes as the UK death toll reached more than 14,500 on Friday after a further 847 people were confirmed to have died.

341,551 people have been tested for Covid-19, of which 108,692 tested positive.

The figures came hours after Professor Anthony Costello warned the UK is facing the worst death toll in Europe from the disease.

He predicted as many as 40,000 deaths in the first wave of the disease alone.

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