Sir Patrick Vallance celebrates UK COVID-19 Infection Survey success as IQVIA opens its UK HQ

Government’s chief scientific adviser praises the “world-leading” COVID surveillance programme undertaken by the Office for National Statistics with IQVIA


08 Jun 2022

Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, has highlighted the crucial part played by the UK’s COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS), and thanked IQVIA for its significant role providing people and proprietary technology for the survey, in his remarks on the opening of the new UK HQ in Paddington, London.

As a leading international human data science and clinical research organisation, IQVIA was asked by Sir Patrick at the start of the pandemic if it could collect, securely host, collate and normalise the health data before passing to the ONS for analysis. Also working with the Department of Health and Social Care and Oxford University, IQVIA provided its team of health care professionals to the CIS to collect COVID swabs and bloods from across the UK population within days of receiving the call.

The CIS which was commenced in April 2020 estimates the percentage of the UK population testing positive for COVID-19 and provides additional vital insights to inform the official UK ‘R’ Rate , key public health decisions and the NHS.

Overview of the COVID-19 Infection Survey from April 2020 - May 2022:

Over 4 million household visits to collect samples have been undertaken across over 250,000 households

Approximately 9 million participant swabs have been taken and sent to the laboratories 

Approximately 2.25 million blood samples have been taken for antibody analysis

11,500 study workers onboarded and trained

Over 80,000 courier deliveries, collecting and delivering samples to labs 7 days a week, 365 days a year

Speaking at the opening of the new UK HQ of IQVIA, Sir Patrick said: “A massive thank you to IQVIA for its significant role in delivering this extraordinary programme, taking advantage of expertise and infrastructure that already existed in a unique collaboration.

“The ONS study quickly scaled up from 2,500 households to 250,000 and became globally important. I spoke with colleagues around the world very frequently, and they were all looking at what the study showed, and wishing they had it. It became the envy of countries all around the world who had nothing like this population surveillance programme.

“[The CIS study] did more than just tell us how many people had the virus. It informed us about viral load, it allowed genomics to play its part on new variants. We learned how many people had different variants and the impact of vaccination. The survey gave us real-time insight into its impact on ethnic communities, regional variation, spikes between waves, as well as the impact of COVID on inequalities. This was truly a landmark study globally."

Sir Patrick ended his speech with reference to the 100 Days Mission which aims to reduce the impact of future pandemics by making Diagnostics, Therapeutics and Vaccines available within 100 days. "As a Mission, this is the right thing to do, through surveillance, genomics and therapeutic interventions," he said.

Tim Sheppard, UK&I, SVP & GM, North Europe at IQVIA, said: “Today’s event is a celebration not only of the opening of our UK HQ here in London but especially a celebration of the achievement of the ONS Covid Infection Survey and the role our people played in the CIS programme, which at its peak delivered 179,000 unique samples in a fortnight.

"The ONS CIS was a fantastic example of what can be achieved through true collaboration between government, academia-led by Oxford’s Professor Sarah Walker, the ONS, the Office for Life Sciences, and the Department of Health and Social Care.

"It is this type of project that underpins IQVIA’s continued investment in the UK. Before the pandemic, IQVIA opened its 4th Clinical Trials Prime Site- the Northern Prime Site, and during the pandemic a £30 million investment, in partnership with Scottish Enterprise expanding our genomic sequencing capabilities in our Laboratory in Scotland.

"As a global business, we choose to prioritise the UK for investment because of the talent that comes from our outstanding universities, a Government that not only pursues Life Sciences policies that are improving the UK clinical research and health data ecosystem but also consults with companies like IQVIA during that policy development. This matters to us."

To IQVIA, the collaboration the company saw in the ONS CIS, the Vaccines Task Force, and the AZ-Oxford Vaccine are templates for future pandemics, including the ambition of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and its 100 Days Mission led by Sir Patrick Vallance.

"We are honoured to have Sir Patrick officiate over the opening of the IQVIA UK HQ today and thank him for recognising our contribution to the achievements of the COVID-19 Infection Survey," IQVIA concluded.

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