Covid-19 vaccine ‘does not mean things can go back to normal’

A vaccine for Covid-19 does not mean things can go back to normal, an expert has warned.

David Nabarro, co-director of Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, said “any promising news about a vaccine is great news”, but cautioned that there is still some way to go.

The comments come as pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and biotech firm BioNTech announce promising results from the clinical trials of their vaccine.

However, they are interim results which yet to be peer-reviewed, and the vaccine has not yet received regulatory approval.

Additionally, although the UK has secured access to 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, it will take some time for enough of it to be produced, and distributed.

However, Downing Street said the UK will have procured 10 million doses to be distributed by the end of this year, if it is approved.

Mr Nabarro told the BBC: “Everybody who’s hearing and watching this will be saying ‘wow, does this mean that life can go back to normal in the near future?’

“Life will go back to a new normal, and we’re not there yet.

“We do need to be following through on all the basic rules that we now know are important for dealing with this virus – our own behaviour, the way in which governments run their health systems, and also unity between nations.

“And I just want to stress that these principles that we’ve been working for over the last 10 months are still absolutely essential.

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“Even if a vaccine arrives in the near future we’ve got many months of still dealing with the virus as a constant threat that we’ve got to make certain that we continue to do all that is necessary to solve the virus causing major problems.

“The vaccine will help, but it’s not going to be a complete game-changer.”

Experts have said the full effect of a vaccine on transmission in the population will not be known until one is in circulation and more data is collected.

Writing a comment in the Lancet last week Professor Roy Anderson, from Imperial College London, suggested that for an R value of 3.5, a vaccine with an efficacy of 80% would require more than 90% vaccination coverage with a vaccine providing long term immunity (many years) required, to eliminate viral transmission.

Data released about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine does not indicate how long immunity lasts, but suggests protection is achieved 28 days after vaccination.

It is also not yet known how well the vaccine works in the most high risk, elderly people.

While other experts have said it may take more than a year for everyone in the UK to get a Covid-19 vaccine should one become available early next year.