Life won't be back to normal until at least next summer – even with a vaccine in the New Year, warns top scientist

IT may take the UK until next summer to start to return to normal, a leading vaccine scientist has warned.

Professor Robin Shattock, of Imperial College London, said even if a coronavirus vaccine is ready by early next year for the most vulnerable it won’t mean an immediate a return to life before the pandemic struck.

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Prof Shattock told The Independent: “I would anticipate with getting a vaccine out to vulnerable populations in the first half of next year, and with the potential gain over the summer that we saw this year – with incidences going down – that we'll start to see life going back to normal in the summer of next year."

He added vaccinating high-risk groups, including healthcare workers and the elderly would be “game-changing” but warned: "It wouldn’t mean everything went away, but it would give the opportunity to start coming out of this situation.”

Prof Shattock said he expected the first vaccines would be available soon after Christmas but it wouldn’t be rolled out to the general public until 2021.

“It is a little bit like looking into a crystal ball,” he said.

Earlier today Sir Jeremy Farrar, who sits on the Government’s Sage committee, said a breakthrough vaccine would “enhance trust” from the public as well as give a “sense of confidence in where the pandemic is going.”

I would anticipate… we'll start to see life going back to normal in the summer of next year

Sir Jeremy, speaking in a personal capacity, told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: "We will know before the end of the year from the early vaccines that are now in late-stage clinical trials.

"I believe that more than one of those vaccines will prove to be effective and safe."

He added: "They may not be perfect, we've become used to perfect vaccines, but generally these first wave of vaccines are not perfect but they're safe and they are effective and they will change the nature of the pandemic.

"They will, I believe, enhance trust and sense of confidence in where the pandemic is going.

“They will prevent, I hope, more people getting severely ill and they may also dent transmission itself, so they will have a big impact."

While a vaccine has yet to be approved by health chiefs several being developed are in the final stages of testing volunteers with the collaboration between Oxford University and AstraZeneca thought to be leading the field.

It’s currently thought people may need to be given booster shots every few months after a study found levels of anitbodies which fought the Covid-19 virus fell quickly.

The Real-Time Assessment of Community Transmission (React) findings indicated immunity waned “quite rapidly” which could then lead to an increased risk of reinfection.

Director of the React programme Professor Paul Elliott told BBC Radio 4: "It's possible that people might need booster vaccines.

"For some viruses there's lifelong immunity, for the coronaviruses that doesn't seem to be the case and we know that the immunity can fluctuate so, yes, this is something that needs to be looked at very carefully."

England is poised to be plunged into a second Covid lockdown which starts on Thursday with non-essential services including pubs and restaurants forced to close.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the move on Saturday evening over fears the continuing spread of the virus could swamp the NHS.

In September the Government launched what it called Operation Moonshot with the ambition of getting the entire population of the UK tested in a week.


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