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Prepare for the worst! Blair think tank says urgent preparation needed for Covid nightmare

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Mr Blair’s Institute for Global Change analysed the best policy approach the UK Government should take to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and future viral outbreaks. The former Prime Minister’s group released its findings on February 26 in a paper called ‘The New Necessary: How We Future-Proof for the Next Pandemic’. The paper said the UK Government should “fast-track research into and stockpiling of antivirals for a potential worst-case scenario’ Covid strain, giving them the same focus and prioritisation as vaccines have received”.

The paper also said: “Drugs that show especially promising results in other trials, should be fast-tracked into UK trials.”

The think tank recommended patients hospitalised in the UK should be automatically be given trial drugs unless they “opt-out”.

Normally the routine is to only give trial drugs if patients actively “opt-in” to the process.

The paper stated: “Once safety has been proved, clinical trials should be ‘opt-out’ in any future pandemic.

“This means that all hospitalised patients should be enrolled automatically, thereby increasing the number of people who will receive either a placebo or the drug itself.”

The paper pointed out “it is critical to have drugs that keep people from being hospitalised”.

The think tank’s analysis recommends the UK Government should consider using “challenge trials” to speed up the research and development of vaccines.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes human challenge trials as “trials in which participants are intentionally challenged, whether or not they have been vaccinated, with an infectious disease organism.”

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“Random control trials will always have a scientific advantage and remain the most effective means of determining whether a vaccine works or not – and to what extent – but we would urge the government to investigate the role of challenge trials in future pandemic preparedness planning and when it comes to variant vaccines to address new, dangerous strains.”

The paper recommended Research and Development timescales should be cut.

The think tank suggests this could be achieved by running phase II and III trials at the same time.

The paper said: “Vaccines should take weeks, working to an ambition of 100 days from a threat being discovered to be developed and distributed.”

The paper suggested the Government should “reduce research, development, and approval times for future vaccines, especially those responding to a new mutant strain”.

The paper added: “The government should set 100 days as the maximum time it will take to go from disease identification to rollout of a vaccine – the ambition should be weeks when it comes to known variants.”

It added the Government should “cut current regulation to run phase II and III clinical trials in parallel, on the basis of the phase I safety data”.

Concerning the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Blair’s policy institute stated: “Leadership has never been more necessary or more difficult.

“We have always existed to support governments and will work with those around the world who have asked for our help.

“Our Government Advisory Practice is directly supporting leaders in their on-the-ground fight against Covid-19, and our Policy Futures unit is delivering analysis and advice to help countries mitigate the economic impact, source essential equipment, harness the power of technology, and position themselves for the rebuilding to come.”



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