Job cuts at UK vaccine licensing agency branded as ‘lunacy’

Unite, the UK’s leading union, has branded the announcement that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the only body able to licence Covid-19 vaccines in the UK, is set to cut 20 per cent of its staff as ‘lunacy’.

Twenty per cent cuts

The redundancy programme for the 1,200 strong workforce is understood to be related to Brexit and severe reductions in funding from the European regulatory system.

The job cuts raise serious concerns about whether the cuts will compromise or slow down the MRHA's ability will to test and approve new Covid-19 vaccines, or modifications of ones that have already been approved to combat different variants of the virus. 

Critical role

In addition to its vaccine licensing function, the MHRA also ensures that all medicines, medical devices and blood components for transfusion meet applicable standards of safety, quality and efficacy. 

Unite, which represents many of the workers at the agency, is now in the process of meeting with management to understand fully the future plans for the MRHA before making a decision on its next course of action.

Sheer lunacy

Unite national officer Caren Evans said: “This is sheer lunacy, the work of the MHRA has never been more important or more high-profile.

“To be cutting staff at a time when it is absolutely crucial that the MRHA is able to quickly and correctly decide whether vaccines can or can’t receive a UK licence is beyond belief.

“The workers at the MRHA are the unsung heroes of the pandemic, their work and dedication should be lauded but instead they fear for their futures.

“Unite is now seeking an urgent meeting to find out what the redundancy programme means for our members and to seek copper-bottomed reassurances that the critical work performed by the MRHA will not be compromised or beset by delays.”