Government failures still hamper our Covid-19 response | Letters

Prof Sarah Gilbert on the lack of pandemic preparedness, Sarah Woolnough on the dearth of support for those struggling with long Covid, and Catherine Tann and Brian Clarke on the missing lateral flow tests

Sarah Boseley’s article on the Oxford vaccine story (The Oxford vaccine: the trials and tribulations of a world-saving jab, 26 June) was a huge missed opportunity to get to the real root cause of some of the vaccine’s challenges. Namely, the failure of the UK to invest in pandemic preparedness, specifically vaccine manufacturing, over many years.

Prior to the pandemic, I had sought significant funding to prepare for a disease “X” (like Covid-19) and to develop the manufacturing capacity to produce trial vaccines – neither of which happened. If we had been properly prepared, and not had to make do with what we had in place while in the midst of a lockdown, we would have been much better able to respond. As it is, I am incredibly proud of what has been achieved with more than 500m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine distributed around the world on a not-for-profit basis.

As people look to learn the lessons of the pandemic, we must ensure we focus on and tackle those challenges that lie behind the news headlines, and not just focus on the obvious PR and political issues. My priority is to apply those lessons that will truly ensure I never find myself back in January 2020 when the next pandemic hits.
Sarah Gilbert
Saïd professor of vaccinology, the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford

• Re your article (‘Your body just stops’: long Covid sufferers face new ordeals as sick pay runs out, 24 June), through our work supporting people with long Covid, we have heard countless stories of those with the condition having to give up their jobs and struggling with daily tasks. They tell us long Covid has robbed them of their quality of life. We have also heard that the treatment they have received is inconsistent and, in some cases, woefully inadequate.

We’ve been filling the gap left by the NHS by providing support to long-Covid patients with breathing difficulties. Our support services, helpline nurses and post-Covid hub website have been used more than 250,000 times since the pandemic struck. Although the NHS recently earmarked £100m to improve services for long-Covid patients, we’re concerned that is not enough and that it may be diverted from existing services for people with respiratory conditions.

More funding has to be ploughed into research to create more effective treatments. If it is not, the government will be turning its back on a generation of patients who desperately need its help.
Sarah Woolnough
Chief executive, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation

• The government wants to understand why nearly 600m lateral flow tests are unregistered on its app (Report, 25 June). I think I can help: they’ve made it too hard. They want a lot of information and the public have to do the legwork – a unique reference number or information for a company/university that I must look up if it’s not listed in the app, every single time. I have to do this within a day of taking the test, or the site won’t let me enter the results anyway. So if my test was negative, should I bother? I promise you I’ll log it if it’s positive. What if I were doing tests for three children twice a week so they can go to school? Forget it.
Catherine Tann
West Byfleet, Surrey

• Well, I can account for six of those lateral flow tests. I needed one, but it seems you can only order them in packs of seven.
Brian Clarke
Orpington, London

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