A CORONAVIRUS vaccine is unlikely to be ready before the winter of 2021, the Chief Medical Officer has warned today.
Professor Chris Whitty said he would be “surprised” if an effective immunisation would be available any earlier.
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The daily increase in fatalities and cases across the UK has continued to slow this month however health authorities are on high alert for any spike in the deadly bug.
Prof Whitty today said he would be “delighted” if a vaccine came early.
But the CMO said: “I’d be quite surprised if we had a highly effective vaccine ready for mass use in a large percentage of the population before the end of winter, certainly before this side of Christmas.”
He added: “I think it is unlikely we will have a vaccine that is highly effective and ready to deploy at scale this winter meaning 2020/21.
“I think there is a reasonable chance that we will have vaccines, not a certainty, in the period before the following winter of 2021/22.”
Another 18 coronavirus deaths were recorded across the UK yesterday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 41, 423.
An additional 1,288 cases were reported, with the country’s top scientists this week warning the UK’s R rate could be above the crucial value of 1.
When the value is below one, it means transmission of the virus is no longer high.
And Prof Whitty said the virus now appeared to be spreading through the population of young people, with the youth infection rate believed to be behind the increase in cases in areas like Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn.
He said: “Certainly what we’ve seen in most countries is that it spreads through younger people and then it starts to move up the age bands.
“Younger people, for example, who’ve got friends that work in care homes or work in healthcare settings, then it starts to lead to cases in people who are much more vulnerable and that’s the point where you start to see significant long term health implications and sometimes sadly deaths.”
But he said he was “confident” that science would “get us out of this hole”.
Authorities are working to avoid another spike, introducing local lockdowns in Manchester and Leicester to slow the spread, while people in Oldham and Blackburn will not be allowed to meet with any other households from midnight on Saturday.
A senior government source told The Telegraph: “We’re looking at a pretty bumpy autumn and winter and that’s going to go in the direction of increased cases and increased outbreaks.”
Professor Sir Mark Walport meanwhile warned yesterday coronavirus was likely to be in Britain forever.
It comes after the World Health Organisation chief said the virus could last for another two years.
Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus compared the virus to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which took “two years to stop”.
He said: “In our situation now with more technology, and of course with more connectiveness, the virus has a better chance of spreading, it can move fast because we are more connected now. But at the same time, we have also the technology to stop it and the knowledge to stop it.”