Covid vaccines could help stamp out virus in UK to measles-like levels, expert claims
The current crop of coronavirus vaccines are so effective they could help stamp out the disease to measles-like levels, an expert has claimed.
Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh and an adviser to the Scottish government, said Britain might not have to live with coronavirus in the future because the rapid rollout of the jabs.
Most scientists have told Britons they must “learn to live with the virus” and predict new jabs will have to be made annually to tackle new variants.
They have said Covid will become a seasonal illness like flu which puts pressure on the NHS every winter.
But Professor Sridhar struck a more positive tone today.
There was no reason we have to live with this virus or even see it as a seasonal flu because the vaccines against the disease are so effective, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Professor Sridhar did say social distancing and mass testing would still need to play a role to squash infections to measles-like numbers.
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She said: “A better analogy is probably measles, which is a virus that’s endemic in parts of the world.
“But we don’t accept living with measles here — we vaccinate against it.”
In the latest figures from 2019, there were just 810 cases of measles in England and Wales.
That was down from 989 the year before.
In contrast there were 9,938 cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours in the whole of the UK.
The main symptoms of measles are red-brown blotchy rashes and cold-like symptoms.
In 1941, there were 1,145 deaths in England and Wales from measles.
A vaccine was introduced in 1968 and there have only been 14 deaths since 2000.
Professor Sridhar continued: “The UK should be aiming to suppress and eliminate Covid-19 through vaccines, mass testing and supported isolation.”
Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge show at the weekend, she said a strong testing system was needed as the vaccine programme continued.
The professor added: “The question is how do we ease restrictions in a one-way process – we don’t see a third wave over the next few months while the vaccine’s rolled out.
“That requires a strong, test, trace and isolate system, especially supporting people in isolating more, as well as mass testing to really hit higher prevalence areas.”
Professor Sridhar also said the UK would have to consider vaccination rates in poorer countries once rates are “super low” at home.
She said 130 countries around the world did not currently have any vaccines at all.
As well as the “moral” argument around vaccinating people abroad, she said the UK should consider its own self-interest in preventing new strains from emerging and addressing geopolitical competition.
Professor Sridhar said: “We are seeing Russia and China donating their vaccines to low-income countries for clear geopolitical reasons.
“We’ve heard with the G7 going on that there is concern about what will it mean for the influence of European and North American countries if China and Russia are seen as being the most reliable support rather than the western world.”
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