Scientists warn first coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to prevent people catching the bug & might only alleviate symptoms
SCIENTISTS have warned ministers that the first coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to prevent people catching the disease and may only alleviate sufferers' symptoms.
Advisers are braced for the first generation of vaccines to be only partially effective – with wide ranging implications for the country's exit strategy from the pandemic.
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The Times reports that experts believe that a vaccine may not enable a complete return to normal life.
Scientists at Oxford University, who are leading the global race for a vaccine, have set a minimum target of 50 per cent protection.
The flu jab, in comparison, is around 40 to 60 per cent effective.
Though a vaccine capable of reducing symptomatic cases by half would greatly enhance options for ministers in loosening restrictions, scientists say that it is unlikely to be a "silver bullet".
According to The Times, the government believes a vaccine will be ready for use in the first half of next year.
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said a number of candidates have shown they can generate an immune response that ought to be protective.
However, social distancing and other hygiene measures may still need to be in place as the vaccine is rolled out – though this will depend on the success of the jab.
A government source told the paper: "It depends on what we find.
"It seems the most likely outcome in the short to medium term is to find a vaccine, or two doses of a vaccine, that reduces the severity of symptoms."
In an ideal scenario, a vaccine could provide 'sterilising immunity' – which blocks the infection completely.
But experts believe that people may need an initial Covid-19 vaccine jab and then a booster shot a month later to prevent catching the virus.
The World Health Organisation's chief scientist Dr Doumya Swaminathan says that at least 60 to 70 per cent of the population would have to be immune to "really break the chain of transmission".
As a result, a vaccine with only 50 per cent level of efficacy would make it hard for the country to achieve herd immunity.
'NO SILVER BULLET'
Charlie Weller, head of vaccines at charity the Wellcome Trust, told The Times: "We need to manage everyone’s expectations on what these first frontrunners of vaccines can actually do.
"There’s a lot of hope, understandably, resting on a vaccine that is going to be this wonderful one dose (that will give) full lifetime immunity and move us back to normality the next day — but it’s not going to be the perfect solution; it’s not going to be the silver bullet."
Matt Hancock said this week he is still hopeful the UK will get a coronavirus vaccine later this year – but added “early next year” is more likely.
He told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “There is still hope that we will get one of the vaccines over the line this year.
“The Oxford vaccine is still at the front of the queue. More likely is next year, and probably the early part of next year.
It comes as a fifth of Brits say they are unlikely to get a coronavirus jab – even if one is approved, a study has found.
The new research highlights "concerning" levels of misinformation around vaccines – with more than half fearing "unforeseen effects".
Polling by the University College London (UCL) found that three-quarters of 17,500 adults surveyed said they would be "likely" to get vaccinated, with half saying they were "very likely" to do so.
But 22 per cent said this was unlikely, and one in 10 said this was "very unlikely", with factors including worries about unforeseen effects, preferences for natural immunity, concerns about commercial profiteering, and mistrust of vaccine benefits.
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