Although the novel coronavirus will be around indefinitely, a member of UK's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has said that the prospect of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of winter should impact strategies.
The novel coronavirus will be around for "evermore" as it is unlikely to be eradicated, a British scientist on the government's advisory committee for the pandemic said on October 21. The scientific advisor, however, added that a vaccine would help improve the situation.
Britain, like other countries in Europe, is currently in the grip of resurging COVID-19 infections, with much of the country under local restrictions and more than 21,000 daily cases reported on October 20.
"We are going to have to live with this virus for evermore. There is very little chance that it's going to become eradicated," John Edmunds, a member of Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told lawmakers.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Although the coronavirus will be around indefinitely, Edmunds said that the prospect of a vaccine towards the end of the winter should impact the government's strategy now.
"If vaccines are just around the corner then, in my view, we should try and keep the incidence as low as we can now, because we will be able to use vaccines in the not too distant future," he said.
He said the UK had played a "clever game" in investing in different coronavirus vaccines. Britain has signed supply deals for six different COVID-19 vaccines, with 340 million doses secured across different types of technologies.
"I think we will be in a reasonable position in months," he said. "I don't think we're going to be vaccinating everybody but to start, maybe the highest risk people, healthcare workers and so on."Click here for Moneycontrol’s full coverage of the novel coronavirus pandemic