A coronavirus vaccine could be rolled out in the UK nine months from now – with trials hoping to report ‘positive’ results before Christmas, a leading scientist has said.
Prof Peter Openshaw, who advises the government’s SAGE group, said there were reasons for a glimmer of hope after a major trial was restarted following a patient’s unexplained illness yesterday.
But he and other scientists made clear a vaccine will not be ready in time for any second wave this winter.
Prof Openshaw said “before the winter of 2021/22”, there may a vaccine that is effective. But he also cautioned that it would not be available that soon in every country in the world.
While the UK has pre-booked hundreds of millions of vaccine doses – if they work – other countries will be less lucky, Prof Openshaw said.
It mirrors claims by another scientist, who yesterday said a vaccine for coronavirus may come in Spring but won’t be ready in time for a potential second wave.
Cases in the UK are already spiralling with experts warning the government is on the brink of losing control ahead of winter, when coronavirus spreads more quickly.
Sir John Bell, 68, who is Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine, said the majority of vaccines take around eight years to develop while research into Covid-19 has only been going on for eight months.
Sir John told the Daily Telegraph: “We’re probably right at the front end of the second wave now, but a vaccine might arrive towards the end of the second wave”.
Prof Openshaw spoke to Sky News about the prospects for a vaccine.
He said: “I do feel that, on the basis of what we know about the immune system, it’s likely that these immune responses which are being induced by these vaccines may be protective at least for a few months, possibly even years. We just don’t know yet, it’s early days.
“I do think that we will probably have positive results of at least one of these vaccine trials, probably more than that, by Christmas.
“And that means that with rapid scaling up we might have vaccination programmes which can roll out to some parts of the world over the next nine months.
“So before the winter of 2021/22, I hope that we should have vaccines which are effective.
“The problem is going to be reaching the parts of the world where these vaccines might have maximal impact, where the resources are low and medical care is hard to access.
“It’s going to be a solution for those of us who can get the vaccines, but it won’t be a global solution.”
Prof Openshaw warned “we must act fast” to stop the virus exploding and a delay of even a “few days” could be “dangerous”, he said.
Asked if he agreed Britain was on the “edge of losing control” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Yes, I think that is right.
“It’s a bit like water seeping through a dam. It starts as a trickle and if you don’t do something about it, it can turn into a real cascade.”