The UK's commitment to tackle future pandemics marks a milestone achievement for the protection of vulnerable groups.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vulnerable Groups to Pandemics welcomes the Health Secretary’s recent statement setting out his priorities for the UK’s G7 presidency, in particular the emphasis on learning the lessons from COVID-19 to be better prepared for future pandemics and future threats to public health.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said his first priority was to deliver “health security for all” which includes the establishment of the National Institute for Health and Protection (NIHP) as an independent body dedicated to fighting pandemics and other external health threats.
This builds on the vital support we have already seen from local authorities in the fight against COVID-19. We hope the actions of this new body will result in an even more comprehensive and rigorous strategy to support and protect people who are shielding and living with underlying health conditions.
This pandemic has shown that the virus and its mutations pose a serious risk to vulnerable groups around the world. Therefore, it is critical that we see the introduction of uniform vaccine trial standards and the strengthening of frameworks for clinical trials, along with the widespread genomic sequencing so that new variants can be discovered, and global solutions found in response at speed.
Britain’s death toll from Covid-19 has now exceeded 100,000, the highest in Europe. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, deaths were most concentrated among older age groups – indicating a large portion of this staggering death toll is made up of people belonging to vulnerable groups.
Although the UK’s vaccination efforts are world-leading, and many people in high-risk groups will soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief, it is vital the country learns from COVID-19 in order to prepare for future pandemics or health shocks.
Virendra Sharma MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vulnerable Groups to Pandemics said:
“As demand on the health service increases during the COVID-19 pandemic, and hospital capacity is affected, the lack of access to health and social services for vulnerable people with underlying health conditions is a major risk. We need to ensure that there is a strategy in place to protect, treat and support vulnerable people to pandemics across the world.”
The APPG is calling on the government to consider the introduction of a national strategy for pandemic preparedness which will look into better protection and support for all, including vulnerable groups. We hope that such a strategy will put Britain in a better place to weather future pandemics and protect the lives of the most vulnerable.