Vaccine investigation delayed due to Covid inquiry

The Covid inquiry, which aims to investigate the UK government's response to the pandemic, has announced a delay in hearing evidence about the development of vaccines and other drugs. Baroness Hallett, who is chairing the inquiry, stated that more time is needed to prepare for a separate investigation into the impact of Covid on the NHS. She acknowledged that this decision may be disappointing for some but emphasized the importance of ensuring effective hearings. The delay means that the module investigating vaccines and therapeutics will now take place after the next general election.

The Covid inquiry is divided into different phases or modules, each covering different topics. The first phase, which began in June 2023, focused on pandemic planning and its findings and recommendations are expected to be published this summer. The second phase, which looks at major political decisions made during the pandemic, began hearings in October 2023 and will travel to various regions in the UK to gather evidence. The module investigating vaccines and therapeutics was originally scheduled to start in the summer of 2024 but has now been postponed.

Instead, public hearings will resume in September 2024 to examine the impact of the pandemic on the NHS and healthcare, as originally planned. The investigation into vaccines was meant to delve into the rollout of vaccines across the UK, including the establishment of the UK vaccines taskforce and the role of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. It was also set to address concerns about vaccine safety and potential reforms to the compensation scheme for vaccine-related health issues. The exact timing of the postponed hearings has yet to be determined.

In addition, the inquiry is expected to question the current cabinet secretary, Simon Case, later this spring. Case was unable to provide evidence during the second phase of the inquiry due to sick leave. Messages exchanged between Case and other Downing Street officials, in which he was critical of ministers, were read out at the inquiry. The delay in the vaccine module is likely to push it beyond the next general election, which must occur before January 28, 2025. Further details about the delay will be provided in the coming weeks.


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