Staff shortages in the NHS and civil service and disruption at ports will only compound difficulties of delivery.
Michel Barnier leaving London for Brussels on Saturday. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Well before scientists were sure that a vaccine would be ready for use in the UK by the end of this year, the government regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – put out an urgent call for help. Its appeal, issued in September, was evidence that even if a vaccine were to be developed and approved soon, things would be far from plain sailing.
The call to tender stated: “The MHRA urgently seeks an artificial intelligence (AI) software tool to process the expected high volume of Covid-19 vaccine-adverse drug reactions (ADRs) and ensure that no details from the ADRs’ reaction text are missed. For reasons of extreme urgency under Regulation 32(2)(c) related to the release of a Covid-19 vaccine, MHRA have accelerated the sourcing and implementation of a vaccine specific AI tool…”
The Cabinet Office, which coordinates policy across government departments and their responses to crises, was alerted. A company called Genpact won the £1.5m tender soon after. The MHRA said then that based on previous vaccination campaigns, there would be between 50,000 and 100,000 reports of suspected side effects for every 100 million doses over a six to 12-month period. Read more >>