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Campaigners vow to fight government plans to sell off vaccine development centre

CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to fight government plans to sell off Britain’s flagship vaccine development centre, branding the move “short-sighted.” 

Established in 2018 to quickly create and test new vaccines, the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), near Oxford, is set to open in 2022 having benefited from £200 million in public funding during its development. 

But reports now suggest that ministers want to hand the project over to the private sector despite the original plans for it to be a non-profit company.

Ministers are facing mounting calls from scientists and opposition MPs to back down on the plans amid warnings that privatising the centre could leave Britain more vulnerable to future Covid-19 variants. 

Now NHS campaigners in the Oxford area and nationally are mobilising to halt the proposed sell-off with a petition calling for Business Secretary Kwasi  Kwarteng to intervene already garnering 15,000 signatures (

“The decision to put the VMIC up for sale is monumentally short-sighted and fails to learn the basic lessons of the last two years,” Liz Peretz of Keep Our NHS Public Oxfordshire warned today. 

Ms Peretz said that government decisions throughout the Covid-19 crisis to hand elements of the pandemic response to privateers has resulted in private profit being put above public health. 

“We should be learning the lesson from this, not repeating these mistakes,” she added. 
Anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It, which is also rallying against the sell-off, accused the government of “shooting itself in the foot” by proposing to privatise the centre. 
“As we’re hit with wave after wave of this global virus, producing vaccines has never been more important to build our resilience,” the group’s Tom Morton said. 

“The VMIC is a strategic asset that gives us more control as a country and protection against pandemics in the future. Selling it off would be incredibly negligent. We will campaign until we stop this short-sighted sell-off.”

The VMIC was commissioned in the wake of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa to develop a state-run facility to help prepare the country for future outbreaks of infectious diseases. 

Ministers are said to be considering bids from private firms to manage the site, according to the Financial Times. 

A government spokesperson said: “We are working closely with VMIC, which is a private company, and others to ensure the UK retains our strong domestic vaccine manufacturing capability to contribute to the UK’s resilience against Covid-19 and other future health emergencies.”


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