LONDON: A coronavirus vaccine is “unlikely” to ever completely eradicate the virus, and the disease may never disappear, the British government’s chief scientific adviser has warned.
“I think it’s unlikely that we’ll end up with a truly sterilizing vaccine that completely stops infection. It’s likely that this disease will circulate and be endemic,” Sir Patrick Vallance told a UK government committee.
The medical definition of endemic describes a disease that is constantly present in the population, much like seasonal flu.
“My assessment — and I think that’s the view of many people — is that’s the likely outcome,” Vallance said.
“Clearly as management becomes better, as you get vaccination that will decrease the chance of infection and the severity of the disease — or whatever the profile of the vaccines are — this then starts to look more like annual flu than anything else, and that may be the direction we end up going in.”
He said the only disease to have ever been completely eradicated is smallpox. Vallance also warned that a working vaccine is unlikely to be ready until next spring at least — still far faster than the approximate five-year development time of previous vaccines.
There are now a number of vaccines undergoing late-stage human trials in the US, the UK, China and elsewhere.
But a growing body of research suggests that a COVID-19 vaccine is unlikely to provide long-term protection against the virus, and may require annual inoculations.