Friday, 27 Nov 2020

Vaccine won’t stop Covid and disease will keep spreading, top scientist warns

A vaccine will not stop the coronavirus and one won’t be available until at least spring next year, the government’s chief scientific adviser has warned.

Sir Patrick Vallance said treating Covid-19 may become more like dealing with seasonal flu.

While vaccine research has become more sophisticated in recent years, we're still a long way from a jab that is widely available, Sir Patrick believes.

He also warned that only one disease – smallpox – has ever been completely eradicated.

Sir Patrick told a parliamentary committee on Monday, October 19: "I think it is unlikely that we will end up with a truly sterilising vaccine that completely stops infection.

"It is likely that this disease will circulate and be endemic.

"My assessment – and I think that's the view of many people – is that's the likely outcome.

"Clearly as management becomes better, as you get vaccination that will decrease the chance of infection and the severity of the disease – or whatever the profile of the vaccines are, this then starts to look more like annual flu than anything else.

"And that may be the direction we end up going in."

Sir Patrick said that over the next few months it will become clear whether there are any vaccines that do protect, and how long for.

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He added that while a number of candidates cause an immune response, only phase three trials will indicate whether they stop people from being infected.

Sir Patrick said: "And we will know that over the next few months. And at that point we'll also have some clearer idea on the safety profile of these vaccines and from there can start looking at what a sensible vaccination strategy could be across the population."

He told the committee he thought it "unlikely" that a vaccine would be available for "any sort of widespread community use" before at least spring next year.

But Sir Patrick said they "may" be some doses before that, though it remains to be seen.

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His predictions came just hours before Ireland announced it will enforce a new six-week lockdown after a steep rise in coronavirus cases.

The five-tier restrictions, the highest that can be imposed, will last until December 1.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin addressed the country at 9pm and officially introduced the measures.

It comes after a recommendation from the Public Health Emergency Team.

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