Oxford coronavirus vaccine boss warns UK won’t get back to normal until at least July

Oxford coronavirus vaccine boss warns UK won’t get back to normal until at least July

 

The boss involved in developing the Oxford vaccine has warned face masks and social distancing will still be needed until July.

Professor Andrew Pollard warned that life will not get back to normal until the summer.

Meanwhile, the first coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to end the pandemic, a taskforce boss has warned in a separate sobering update.

Britain has stockpiled 340 million doses from six prototype vaccines – the most of any country – but Kate Bingham admits there are still plenty of uncertainties.

The head of the UK Vaccine Taskforce said a “partially effective vaccine is better than no vaccine at all” and that any vaccine would likely require more than one dose.

“Flu vaccines are 50% effective, but they are widely used and have a big impact on reducing the clinical impacts of flu in the population,” Ms Bingham told Sky News.

She added the UK had stockpiled so many doses in order to “maximise our chances”, and said it is important to cover every “different immune profile”.

An Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine and another from BioNTech/Pfizer are expected to release findings from phase 3 trials in the coming weeks.

Two other vaccines are also in similar stages, said Ms Bingham, who added there haven’t been “any serious safety signals” as yet.

The vaccines in the final stage clinical trials have been administered to thousands of participants to check safety and effectiveness before researchers submit their data to regulators for approval.

Professor Jonathan Ball, a vaccine expert at Nottingham University, said antibody levels drop fairly rapidly after a person contracts the virus.

And if this happens with a vaccine, protection would only last a matter of weeks, adding while that is better than nothing, he didn’t want to give people “false hope”.

Ms Bingham also made clear there was a “slim” chance the Oxford vaccine would be ready for Christmas.

It would be “possible” for a vaccine this year, she continued, but that depends on a number of factors including ensuring enough people are recruited into the studies and then whether enough infections are seen in the placebo group.

“So, if everything works, yes it’s possible we could get a vaccine this year but it’s most likely that it’ll be next year,” she said.

“The ideal is that you get vaccinated and then you’re protected from infection for life.

“Then the other extreme, the other bookend as it were, would be it doesn’t stop infection, but just reduces the severity of symptoms.

“And frankly, I think anything that that falls in that spectrum, would be a plus.”

Meanwhile, Oxford vaccine head Professor Pollard warned strict rules would have to be followed even if one of the trials proved successful.

With the first batch of jabs to be initially only available to frontline health workers.

“Life won’t be back to normal until summer at the earliest. We may need masks until July,” he told the Daily Mail.

“Until we’ve got a high level of immunity in the population so that we can stop the virus so most vulnerable people are immune, there is going to be a risk.”

He said once final stage trials are completed and submitted to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, scrutiny won’t happen “overnight”, but rather weeks.

“They will have to scrutinise the data very carefully – the public would not expect any less.”

He added rolling out the vaccine will then pose a “huge logistical challenge”.

Ms Bingham, who is taking part in the Novavax vaccine trial herself, is urging elderly people and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups to come forward to join the vaccine trials.

At the moment more than nine in 10 people on the trial (93%) are white, 4% are Asian and less than half a percent are black.

It comes amid reports that the Johnson & Johnson trial of its Covid-19 vaccine has been paused due to illness in one participant.

But experts stressed that trial pauses are a common aspect of clinical research.

The Oxford University study was paused temporarily after a participant fell ill, but has since resumed in the UK.

The American arm of the trial remains on pause while officials assess the data.

To sign up to the vaccine registry, visit www.nhs.uk/researchcontact

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