Britain will set up a new animal vaccine development centre aiming quash future pandemics as part of a landmark global health declaration to be agreed by G7 world leaders at Carbis Bay in Cornwall on Saturday.
The so-called “Carbis Bay Declaration” will see the world’s leading democracies commit to a series of measures that are designed to quash future pandemics within the crucial period of the first 100 days.
It comes as the G7 leaders from the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan as well the European Union are joined in their discussions on global health by their counterparts from South Korea, South Africa, Australia and India – participating virtually.
“In the last year the world has developed several effective coronavirus vaccines, licensed and manufactured them at pace and is now getting them into the arms of the people who need them,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the host of the first major in-person world summit since the pandemic began last year.
“But to truly defeat coronavirus and recover we need to prevent a pandemic like this from ever happening again. That means learning lessons from the last 18 months and doing it differently next time around. I am proud that for the first time today the world’s leading democracies have come together to make sure that never again will we be caught unawares,” he said.
Controlling zoonotic diseases, or those human diseases which originate in animals, has been made central to the UK PM’s plan for preventing future pandemics. Therefore, Downing Street said that to stop new animal-borne diseases before they put people at risk, the UK will establish a UK Animal Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre at the Pirbright Institute in Surrey, south-east England.
“The Centre will draw on Pirbright’s world leading expertise to accelerate the delivery of vaccines for livestock diseases. These diseases pose a risk to people if they mutate to become transmissible to humans and can devastate agriculture in the UK and internationally. The centre will rapidly assess promising new technologies in the field, and develop and test novel vaccines for emerging diseases,” Downing Street said.
The Carbis Bay Declaration will be agreed by leaders on Saturday and published on Sunday, alongside the final G7 Summit Communique.
During the deliberations, the Pandemic Preparedness Partnership has published an independent report entitled ‘100 Days Mission to Respond to Future Pandemic Threats’, which contains actionable recommendations on how governments and others can quickly respond to any future outbreaks. The first 100 days after the identification of an epidemic threat are said to be crucial to changing its course and, ideally, preventing it from becoming a pandemic.
The move comes amid growing demand for a more thorough investigation into the origin of the virus that causes COVID-19 infections. The US media, quoting intelligence reports and experts are reporting that the deadly virus might have escaped from a laboratory in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where cases were first found in late 2019.
The Carbis Bay Declaration incorporates the recommendations of this report and sets out the other steps G7 countries will take to prevent a future pandemic. These include slashing the time taken to develop and licence vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for any future disease to under 100 days, a commitment to reinforce global surveillance networks and genomic sequencing capacity and support for reforming and strengthening the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"We welcome the Carbis Bay Health Declaration, particularly as the world begins to recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. Together we need to build on the significant scientific and collaborative response to the COVID-19 pandemic and find common solutions to address many of the gaps identified,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom, WHO Director General.
Professor Bryan Charleston, Director and CEO of Pirbright added: “There is a global unmet need to accelerate the development of vaccines from the laboratory to provide effective products for livestock keepers to control disease in their animals. Preventing disease by vaccination will help secure food supplies and so improve human health and welfare.
“The importance of this centre has been recognised by UKRI-Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who have worked together to develop a plan to establish this new facility that will also play a key role in controlling zoonotic diseases.”
It follows the UK’s announcement last month of plans for a Global Pandemic Radar to identify emerging COVID-19 variants and track new diseases around the world and will be seeking G7 backing for the initiative.
(With PTI inputs)