Health & Fitness

Coronavirus prone to develop into as ‘endemic’ because the flu and a vaccine may not be capable of cease it, prime UK scientist says

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Health workers are dressing with protective suits and face maks. The collection of swab samples by medical staff in the drive-in testing center of San Filippo Neri hospital in Roma, Italy on October 19, 2020.

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LONDON — Covid-19 is likely to become as “endemic” as the annual flu virus, according to the U.K.’s chief scientific advisor.

“We can’t be certain, but I think it’s unlikely we will end up with a truly sterilizing vaccine, (that is) something that completely stops infection, and it’s likely this disease will circulate and be endemic, that’s my best assessment,” Patrick Vallance told the National Security Strategy Committee in London on Monday.

“Clearly as management becomes better, as you get vaccination which would decrease the chance of infection and the severity of disease … this then starts to look more like annual flu than anything else and that may be the direction we end up going,” he said.

He cautioned that a vaccine against the new coronavirus — and there are a handful in Phase 3 clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization — is not likely to eradicate the virus anyway.

“The notion of eliminating Covid from anywhere is not right, because it will come back,” he said, noting there had only been one human disease “truly eradicated” thanks to a highly effective vaccine and that was smallpox.

Biotech companies and academic bodies around the world have joined forces to try to create a vaccine against the coronavirus at breakneck speed given its ferocity. On Monday, the grim milestone of 40 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide was reached, and the virus has caused 1.1 million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Historically, creating a vaccine from scratch had taken 10 years on average, Vallance said, and it had never taken under five years.

“We’re now in the extraordinary situation where there are at least eight vaccines which are in quite large clinical studies around the world … We will know over the next few months whether we have any vaccines that really do protect and how long they protect for,” he said.

He added there were a number of vaccines that created an immune response and antibody response, but only the Phase 3 clinical trials would prove whether they “actually stop people getting infected.” The safety profile of such vaccines would also become clearer and from then on, a “sensible vaccination strategy” could be looked at, Vallance said.

Vallance concluded he didn’t believe there would be any vaccine available for widespread use in the community until at least spring 2021.

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Katherine Clark