The UK government has pledged to invest 29.3 million pound to 'future-proof' the country against Covid variants, media reports said on Wednesday. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced an investment of 29.3 million pound into a series of new laboratories at the Porton Down research centre in Wiltshire, the Daily Mail reported. The money will allow the scientists to test 3,000 blood samples a week, up from 700 at the moment, to measure the levels of protective antibodies against Covid-19 generated by different vaccines.
"The UK has proven itself to be a world-class force in the production of Covid-19 vaccines, with the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax and Valneva vaccines all researched, developed or manufactured on British soil," Hancock was quoted as saying.
"This multi-million pound funding for a state-of-the-art vaccine testing facility at Porton Down will enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants," he added.
While the existing vaccines are effective against the UK variant and the South African variant, little is known about their effectiveness against others, including the Brazilian and Indian variants.
Moreover, as the virus keeps mutating, the officials are concerned of a third virus wave triggered by a new variant that cannot be protected by the vaccines that are in use now.
The research hub will speed up the recognition of new strains and help officials to work out which ones are circulating in the UK and where, allowing them to do surge testing and develop new vaccines if necessary, the report said.
The move would "future-proof the vaccination programme for the next year and the years beyond that, as we move from pandemic to endemic and deal with it in the way we would deal with the annual flu vaccination programme", the report cited Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi as saying on BBC Breakfast.