Big Business, Big Money, Social Science and Vaccines
Following Dr Rock’s previous blog, ‘Manipulating the Human Mindscape – influencing behaviour in a post truth world’, with its emphasis on the study and use by Government of behavioural psychology and behavioural economics, more evidence emerges of an emphasis on social science research preparatory to the the global vaccination programme.
A ‘call for proposal’ from UK.plc’s Department for International Development and the Wellcome Trust sought partners for a Joint Initiative on Epidemic Preparedness. The call was announced on May 14th 2018, almost two full years before the plague of 2020 was officially recognised to have arrived in Britain. Applications were ‘considered by an Expert Advisory Panel specifically formed to support the DFID-Wellcome Joint Initiative on Epidemic Preparedness’. DFID-Wellcome’s decisions were final and not subject to appeal.
The proposed £25 million initiative sought to combine the ‘global expertise and in-country links’ of DFID with Wellcome’s funding interests in ‘social science, product development and global policy’. Successful applicants would be expected to work closely on a local, international and global level with the WHO and UNICEF to develop ‘standardised social science research protocols’ for diseases such as those listed in the WHO R&D Blueprint. The R&D Blueprint was itself adopted in May 2016, two years before DFID’s call for proposal, and with different but complementary aims:
- fast-track the availability of effective tests, vaccines and medicines;
- improve coordination between scientists and global health professionals;
- accelerate the research and development process and
- develop new norms and standards.
UK Vaccine Manufacturing Sites (source: VTF Interim Report)
In March 2020 the United Kingdom’s four nation High Consequence Infectious Disease Group reversed an earlier interim recommendation to classify Covid19 as an HCID largely because new information showed that mortality rates were ‘low overall’. This view was supported by the Government’s Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens whose members ‘held the unanimous view that this infection should not be classified as an HCID’.
Despite this about-turn, in April 2020 the UK Business Secretary announced that ‘rapid development and production of a coronavirus vaccine will be driven by a new government-led Vaccine Taskforce’. The stated aim of the VTF was to develop a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible, and to encourage provision of resources and support to industry and research institutions.
According to its most recent end-of-year report the Vaccine Taskforce ‘seeks to bring together government, industry, academics, funding agencies, regulators, logistics and finance to make rapid decisions to … accelerate vaccine development and vaccinate the right proportion of the population as soon as possible.’ The group’s further aims include supporting Oxford University and Imperial College ‘to scale up as quickly and effectively as possible’, to offer the UK as an expert clinical testing and manufacturing site, and to ensure access to vaccines ‘wherever they emerge’.
Vaccines – Production vs. Supply (source: VTF Interim report)
In late July of 2020 the Vaccine Taskforce supported the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult’s acquisition of, and investment into, Benchmark’s Novartis Animal Health vaccine manufacturing plant in Braintree, a site that has been producing licensed veterinary vaccines for the last 25 years. The Catapult’s core purposes are to build ‘a world-leading cell and gene therapy sector in the UK as a key part of a global industry … and to help bring cell and gene therapies to market’.
The VTF also recommended that the Government provide funding for the upgrade and expansion of Valneva’s inactivated whole viral vaccine manufacturing capability to Biosafety Level 3. Valneva’s upgraded plant, in Livingstone, Scotland, will have the capability rapidly to grow new pandemic viruses which can be inactivated and combined with an adjuvant to create future vaccines’.
Once the ‘drug substance’ is manufactured, Wockhardt in North Wales ‘has reserved capacity to fill finish millions of vaccine doses for the UK Government’s exclusive use for the next 18 months to allow for the supply of multiple vaccines in its fight against COVID-19. This ensures that there is sufficient capacity of fill finish of drug substance to get the vaccine in a form to be given to patients’
It might be observed that whilst the tests and vaccines have most certainly been successfully fast-tracked, their effectiveness is being ever more widely questioned. Substantial questions also arise regarding the emphasis on, or need for, such rapid development in circumstances where authorities themselves acknowledge a low overall mortality rate. Whilst new norms and standards are clearly being established, they do not yet include a demonstrably effective test or a vaccine that even claims to prevent infection or interfere with transmission.
Nonetheless, a substantial new and undoubtedly profitable industry has been imagined and established in what seems to be remarkably short order. The new enterprises will, between them, design, manufacture, pack and distribute an ever expanding panoply of novel treatments and therapies which will subsequently be tested on the population at large.
The outcomes of such tests will be monitored in Uk.plc by the newly formed National Citizenry Database which seeks to accelerate ‘en-role-ment’ in clinical trials ‘and so generate the safety and efficacy data as rapidly as possible’.
This effort is being supported by Covid 19 Genomics UK Consortium which seeks ‘to deliver large-scale and rapid whole-genome virus sequencing to local NHS centres and the UK government’. CoGUK was established by SAGE’s Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance of the Vaccine Taskforce, and is administered by the Wellcome Sanger Institute.
Establishing the ‘Human Challenge Model’ (source: VTF Interim Report)
The VTF has made it a key priority to get Human Challenge Model studies up and running, where young healthy subjects receive the vaccine prior to being infected by the virus, for the ‘controlled testing’ of new vaccines.
However effective the treatments turn out to be, whether or not the need for them is ever demonstrably established, and whether or not ‘vaccines’ and ‘gene therapies’ should be so readily co-mingled, the business of production would appear to be a sound investment solidly backed by the World Management Team. The effects of the ongoing trials, and of the decisions seemingly made over the last few months, will be tracked by the pharmaceutical conglomerates and mined for useful data by a global social science project.
Precedent suggests that each new product will lead to, or perhaps even necessitate, the creation of further products. This system will demand more monitoring, more recording, more data-sharing and registration, and there will be a consequent sustained reduction in privacy of all sorts.
The internecine relations between government, commerce and academia, hidden for so long, are now explicit.
What could possibly go wrong?
The Vaccine TaskForce and the DFID/UK AID/Wellcome initiative are discussed further in Dr Rock’s podcast Vaccine Task Force – promoting healthy business