By Holly Ellyatt
Covid-19 is likely to become as “endemic” as the annual flu virus, according to the U.K.’s chief scientific advisor.
Some potential vaccines are in late-stage clinical trials, but Patrick Vallance said none is likely to eradicate the virus.
“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.
“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,” 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.
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 that a number of vaccines 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.
He also said that the number of people taking the vaccine might be far below popular estimates. “Realistically, I’m not sure we’ll reach the 30 percent mark worldwide of those who are eventually vaccinated,” he said. “And even then, the vaccine may only be 65 to 70 effective. If you do the math you see that the deterrent could be much less than we originally hoped for.”