Dame Kate Bingham, who spearheaded the UK’s vaccination programme in 2020, also accused the government of going “backwards” in its preparation against future pandemics.
Giving evidence to a parliamentary inquiry into lessons to be learned from the coronavirus pandemic, she said: “Our vaccines currently are not good enough.
“We need to improve the quality of the vaccines, the durability, the ability to stop transmission, the way in which we give vaccines.
“Lots of things need to be improved. Our approach seems to have been to go backwards rather than to continue the momentum.”
In her former role, Dame Kate was instrumental in ensuring Britain was the first country in the world to start vaccinating its citizens against coronavirus in December 2020.
But she told MPs from the health and science committees that the UK has now gone “backwards”.
“What’s gone wrong is there’s been no expert or leader that’s put in place to coordinate the activities,” she said.
“Everything from vaccine innovation and scale up to landscaping – figuring out where the new variants may come from, the new potential pandemic viruses – people that understand manufacturing, scaling up clinical development, regulation.
“All of those have gone. Maybe there is somebody secret out there that’s doing that, but not as far as I can see.”
Visibly frustrated at times while giving evidence, Dame Kate said she was “baffled” by the government’s decision-making regarding the development of new vaccines.
“To begin with I thought it was a lack of experience of officials since we don’t have a lot of people within Whitehall that understand vaccines, relationships with industry, all of that,” she said.
“But actually, I’m beginning to think this is deliberate government policy – just not to invest and just not to support the sector.
“I cannot explain why we haven’t appointed somebody who can actually bring all this together because we’ve got the capabilities and yet, systematically, things are being dismantled that we put in place.”