THE FIRST doses of a coronavirus vaccine could be available before Christmas, the government’s chief scientist has said.
Sir Patrick Vallance said that while some doses could be seen in 2020, he warned that it would more than likely be that widespread doses would be available by the spring.
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Speaking at a Downing Street press conference today he said he “wouldn’t speculate” on how effective the vaccines would be and said the UK is in a good place when it comes to development.
“To be where we are now is remarkable”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he “really hoped” the UK would make progress with a vaccine and was glad that Sir Patrick was “so optimistic”.
He did warn though that the country “cannot rely” on the vaccine solving all problems related to the virus.
Mr Johnson said: “We can’t, in my view, rely on that… it may happen, we are working flat out to ensure that it does, but we can’t just count on that.
“That is why we have to do all the other things that we are doing.”
We may get a few doses this side of Christmas, maybe something could happen, but I think we should more realistically be looking at spring
Sir Patrick Vallance
Sir Patrick added that things are “progressing well” and said we need to understand how to use the vaccine in different groups before it is rolled out.
“There are vaccines that produce an immune response, they’re in phase three clinical trials, we should be seeing some data read-outs over the course of this year.
“I remain of the view that the possibility of wider-spread use of vaccines isn’t going to be until spring or so next year by the time we get enough doses and enough understanding of the outputs to use them.
“Now we may get a few doses this side of Christmas, maybe something could happen, but I think we should more realistically be looking at spring, and of course there are no guarantees until the studies have read out.”
Sir Patrick was optimistic about the prospect of a vaccine early next year [/caption]
He added that we still need to be cautious and should continue to wear face masks and focus on hand hygiene.
Sir Patrick said a vaccine could help “release” us from some of these measures.
“That’s got to be an aim that we would all wish for and that’s why so many companies around the world are working on vaccines and why there has been such remarkable progress”, he added.
Just two days ago, Sir Patrick said a vaccine “could be ready by the spring”.
Speaking at a press conference he said: “I think it is unlikely that we will end up with a truly sterilising vaccine that completely stops infection.
“It is likely that this disease will circulate and be endemic.”
His comments on the possibility of a vaccine this week come after Pfizer revealed it has already manufactured “several hundred thousand doses”.
Vials of the vaccine are being stockpiled at the plant in Puurs, Belgium – and are ready to be rolled out internationally if clinical trials are a success.
Health watchdogs must then decide if the drug is safe and effective.
If it is, the US company hopes to make 100million doses available this year, of which a whopping 40m are destined for the UK.
‘Room for improvement’
Commenting on the Test & Trace programme in the UK, Sir Patrick said there was “room for improvement”.
He added: “It’s undoubtedly the case that test trace and isolation becomes much more difficult to have an impact once numbers are high.
“So, it’s much more effective when numbers are low”.
He reiterated that coronavirus measures would need to be in place “for some time to come” and added that the numbers “would not decrease quickly”.
“I think it is likely that some measures of restriction are going to need to be in place for a while to try and get those numbers down.
“The quicker you get the R below one, the quicker the numbers come down and things then give a bit of room. A lot depends now on what happens now over the next few weeks.
“At the moment, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction but there are some signs in some places of a potential flattening off of that.
“We need to wait and see and monitor the numbers very carefully.”