LONDON: The UK faces at least another nine months of restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus, because a workable vaccine might not be ready until well into 2021, the head of Oxford University’s vaccine team said on Tuesday.
Prof. Andrew Pollard, who runs the university’s research group working to find a coronavirus vaccine, said that without immunization there was minimal chance of Britain returning to normality until at least next summer, with measures such as face masks and social distancing likely to remain in place until then, the Mail Online reported.
“Life won’t be back to normal until summer at the earliest. We may need masks until July,” Pollard said during an online seminar with Oxford alumni.
“If we end up with a vaccine that’s effective in preventing the disease, that is by far the best way to control the virus. But in the medium term, we’ll still need better treatments.
“When does life get back to normal? Even if we had enough vaccines for everyone, in my view it’s unlikely that we’re going to rapidly be in a position where the physical distancing rules can be just dropped.
“Only when there is a big drop in serious cases will governments feel able to relax these measures. This is an easily transmissible virus,” he added.
Pollard also warned that a working vaccine available on a national scale by the new year might not be possible even if trials are completed by December, especially as any approved immunization product would have to be given to health workers and front-line staff first.
And even once a vaccine had received approval from Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, it would still pose a “huge logistical challenge” to roll the program out on a national level, Pollard said.
“Once we have the trial results, I can’t imagine they will do that overnight,” he added. “They will have to scrutinize the data very carefully — the public would not expect any less.”
Pollard’s Oxford vaccine team has been working alongside pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop a vaccine using human trials since April.
The professor’s warnings come as the UK government is contemplating stricter, more localized lockdowns to combat a sharp increase in virus cases in England and Wales.