Covid-19 vaccine does not mean things can return to normal – expert

Medical Syringe
Medical Syringe (PA Archive)
15:57pm, Mon 09 Nov 2020
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A coronavirus vaccine does not mean things can go back to normal – and it will help, but not be a game changer, an expert has warned.

The comments come as pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and biotech firm BioNTech announce promising results from the clinical trials of their vaccine.

However, they are interim results which yet to be peer-reviewed, and the vaccine has not yet received regulatory approval.

Additionally, although the UK has secured access to 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, it will take some time for enough of it to be produced, and distributed.

However, Downing Street said the UK will have procured 10 million doses to be distributed by the end of this year, if it is approved.

David Nabarro, co-director of Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, said “any promising news about a vaccine is great news”, but cautioned that there is still some way to go.

He told the BBC: “Everybody who’s hearing and watching this will be saying ‘wow, does this mean that life can go back to normal in the near future?’

“Life will go back to a new normal, and we’re not there yet.

“We do need to be following through on all the basic rules that we now know are important for dealing with this virus – our own behaviour, the way in which governments run their health systems, and also unity between nations.

“And I just want to stress that these principles that we’ve been working for over the last 10 months are still absolutely essential.

“Even if a vaccine arrives in the near future we’ve got many months of still dealing with the virus as a constant threat that we’ve got to make certain that we continue to do all that is necessary to solve the virus causing major problems.

“The vaccine will help, but it’s not going to be a complete game changer.”

However, some experts are more optimistic about what the development of a vaccine may mean.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Government’s vaccine taskforce, indicated people could look forward to a normal life in the coming months.

He told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “I am really delighted with this result – it shows that you can make a vaccine against this little critter. Ninety percent is an amazing level of efficacy.

“It rolls the pitch for other vaccines because I can’t see any reason now why we shouldn’t have a handful of good vaccines.”

Asked if people could look forward to a return to normal life by the spring, Sir John replied: “Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am probably the first guy to say that but I will say that with some confidence.”

However, he also highlighted that it would be a challenge to organise the distribution of a vaccine in the UK.

Experts have said the full effect of a vaccine on transmission in the population will not be known until one is in circulation and more data is collected.

Writing a comment in the Lancet last week Professor Roy Anderson, from Imperial College London, suggested that for an R value of 3.5, a vaccine with an efficacy of 80% would require more than 90% vaccination coverage with a vaccine providing long term immunity (many years) required, to eliminate viral transmission.

Data released about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine does not indicate how long immunity lasts, but suggests protection is achieved 28 days after vaccination.

It is also not yet known how well the vaccine works in the most high risk, elderly people.

While other experts have said it may take more than a year for everyone in the UK to get a Covid-19 vaccine should one become available early next year.

There is also data suggesting some people would be reluctant to be vaccinated.

Almost a quarter of adults are unwilling to have a future Covid-19 vaccine, a study carried out by Sheffield Hallam University suggests.

Researchers from the university’s Centre for Behavioural Science and Applied Psychology surveyed 2,152 people between April and June.

Of those surveyed, 23% (498) said they would be unwilling to receive a future vaccine, with one in five people at increased risk of severe Covid-19 also reluctant.

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