Oxford vaccine and research centre worth £200m could be sold
Questions have been raised over the future of a £200m purpose built vaccination centre in Oxfordshire.
Campaigners are demanding answers after reports the government plans to sell the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) at Harwell Science Campus.
They say selling the centre would be “short-sighted” and “negligent”.
A government spokesperson said they were working to ensure a “strong vaccine manufacturing capability”.
Wantage MP David Johnston and Oxford West and Abingdon MP, Layla Moran have both asked government ministers for more information.
“We are working closely to ensure the UK retains our strong domestic vaccine manufacturing capability.”
The VMIC has received £200m in funding from the government since plans for its conception in 2017.
The centre’s development was fast-tracked because of the pandemic and built in April 2020.
It has been designed to bring the processes of vaccine development under one roof and provide a national response to threats and emergencies – like Covid-19.
Campaigner Liz Peretz, from Oxfordshire’s Keep Our NHS Public, said the centre is a “crown jewel”.
She added: “We already know commercial companies said they could never do it [create a Covid vaccine] in the time that we have done it. We made this facility so we could. And selling it off? It beggars belief.”
The centre was established by three universities, including the University of Oxford, and with funding from the government it is currently run as a not for profit company.
When questioned, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons: “I think what we’re doing is investing hundreds of millions to make sure we have a dynamic vaccine industry. Clearly government needs to work hand in glove with the private sector as we have done.”
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “We are working closely to ensure the UK retains our strong domestic vaccine manufacturing capability.”