Britain launches expert group to prepare for future pandemics

New international panel will help bolster world's preparedness for next pandemic

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 16: Kevin Connors, 51, receives an AstraZeneca vaccine during the Lord Mayor William Russell's (R) visit to the Boots pharmacy on Fleet Street in the City of London on April 16, 2021 in London, England. It is the City of London's first and only dedicated vaccination centre and opened on Good Friday. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
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Britain on Tuesday said it would launch an international expert group to help the world prepare for the next pandemic and hasten the development of vaccines against future diseases as they emerge.

Launched under Britain's presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations, the Pandemic Preparedness Partnership will report to the G7 leaders summit in June.

It will advise on how to achieve Prime Minister Boris Johnson's target of developing vaccines against future diseases within 100 days.

"As G7 president, the UK is determined to work with our partners to build back better from coronavirus and strengthen global preparedness for future pandemics," Health Minister Matt Hancock said before a two-day online meeting of the group.

"This new expert group will drive our efforts in the years ahead to protect people everywhere from new diseases and to save lives."

The move comes as Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove travels to Israel to study a Covid "green pass" smartphone app that could soon be the model for vaccine passports in the UK.

Mr Gove is being accompanied by Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer.

UK ministers have previously said the world lacks a coordinated response to the pandemic, with many countries retreating to "vaccine nationalism" given the finite number of doses.

This means poorer countries have had limited access to vaccines while advanced economies have progressed to inoculating younger, healthier citizens.

The EU, a large manufacturing base for medical supplies, earlier this year imposed export controls on Covid-19 vaccines to shore up supplies for its own population.

The expert group will be chaired by the UK government's chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, and its steering group includes executives from Covid-19 vaccine makers AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, as well as scientists.

Britain said there would also be £16 million ($22.3m) more funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to support global vaccine supply and development.