In Brief

Coronavirus vaccine will not allow rapid return to normal life, scientists warn

Royal Society warns it may take up to a year to distribute Covid-19 jabs

The development of a coronavirus vaccine in early 2021 will not mean an immediate return to normality, leading scientists have warned.

Even if a Covid-19 jab becomes available in spring, it will take upwards of a year to administer to everyone in the UK, the report by the Royal Society says.

The UK’s national academy of sciences cautioned that people need to be “realistic” about what a vaccine can achieve, adding that other virus-fighting measures - such as social distancing - will need to remain in place.

“Even if it is effective, it is unlikely that we will be able to get back completely to normal,” said Charles Bangham, chairman of immunology at Imperial College London and one of the authors of the report.

“There’s going to be a sliding scale: even after the introduction of a vaccine that we know to be effective, we will have to gradually relax some of the other interventions.”

Professor Nilay Shah, head of chemical engineering at Imperial College London, added that life will not be “returning to normal in March” if a vaccine becomes available.

“If vaccination does start in the spring, it will take a long time to work through the different priority groups initially, and then the wider population later on,” Shah said. “We may be able to start the process but then to get through that vaccination process, it will take many months, maybe more than a year.”

There are currently more than 200 potential vaccines being developed by scientists, with “optimism, including from the UK government's scientific advisers, that some people may get a vaccine this year and mass vaccination may start early next year”, the BBC says.

The report from the Royal Society comes just weeks after a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official issued a similar warning, saying hopes that a coronavirus vaccine will end the global pandemic are unrealistic.

Hans Kluge, the health agency’s regional director for Europe, told Bloomberg that while there has been an “unprecedented coordinated effort globally” to create a working vaccination, the drug is “not the issue”. 

“The vaccine is not going to be the end of the pandemic,” Kluge said. “The end of the pandemic is going to be when we as people learn to live with the pandemic, and that can begin tomorrow.”

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