Vaccine expert warns face masks and social distancing will be needed until next summer

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Face masks and social distancing will be needed until next summer, the head of the Oxford Covid vaccination team said last night.

Andrew Pollard has warned that strict rules should be followed even if his global trial turns out to be successful. He said the first jabs might not be available until next year – and only for key groups such as frontline health workers.

Prof Pollard said he hoped final testing could be completed by the end of this year, but added: “Life won’t be back to normal until summer at the earliest. We may need masks until July.

“If we end up with a vaccine that is effective in preventing disease, that is by far the best way to control the virus. But in the medium term, we will still need better treatments. When does life return to normal? Even if we had enough vaccines for everyone, in my opinion, it is unlikely that we will very quickly be in a position where the rules of physical distance can simply be dropped.

Andrew Pollard (pictured) has warned that strict rules should be followed even if his global lawsuit turns out to be successful

“As long as we don’t have a high level of immunity in the population so that we can stop the virus so that the most vulnerable people are immune, there will be a risk. Initially, we’re going to be in a position where mask-wearing and social distancing don’t change.

“It is only when there is a sharp drop in severe cases that governments will feel able to relax these measures. It is a very easily transmitted virus ”.

The Oxford University vaccine, produced with drug giant AstraZeneca, is one of only nine to have reached phase three of trials, the last step before implementation, and is widely regarded as the main candidate to issue.

Professor Pollard said he hoped final testing could be completed by the end of this year, but added: 'Life will not be back to normal until summer at the earliest. We may need masks until July '(stock image)

Prof Pollard said he hoped final testing could be completed by the end of this year, but added: “Life won’t be back to normal until summer at the earliest. We may need masks until July ‘(stock image)

In other developments yesterday:

  • Labor’s Keir Starmer has called for a nationwide “blackout”, with everyone again being urged to stay home for at least two to three weeks;
  • Talks continued with northern leaders over stricter lockdown measures, with at least one additional region set to join Merseyside in the ‘very high risk’ category this week;
  • Sadiq Khan called for London to be placed in the second “high risk” category within days, despite warnings that it would risk destroying the capital’s economy;
  • UK has recorded 143 Covid-19-related deaths, the highest daily figure since June and double the total a week ago;
  • Tory MP Chris Green has resigned from his junior government post, complaining that the lockdown in his constituency of Bolton had not worked, adding: ‘The cure is worse than the disease’;
  • The largest increase in layoffs in a quarter century and a rise in unemployment to 4.5 percent fueled fears of a bloodbath in employment;
  • Millions of vulnerable people who were protected in the first wave of Covid-19 were told that they did not need to stay at home again;
  • Grieving family banned from saying the Lord’s Prayer at funeral because they “violated” Covid-19 restrictions;
  • Theresa May urged Boris Johnson to put business leaders on his SAGE scientific committee.

In his remarks at an online seminar with Oxford alumni, Prof Pollard explained that if successful, the vaccine will need to be approved by the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency.

He said: “Once we get the results of the trial, I can’t imagine they will do it overnight.

“They will have to examine the data very carefully – the public will expect nothing less. “

The final assessment, he said, is likely to take weeks, even though he and his team have started a “rolling program” to give the regulatory agency access to ongoing trials.

The deployment of the vaccine will pose a “huge logistical challenge”, stressed the professor.

The Oxford University vaccine, produced with drug giant AstraZeneca, is one of only nine to have reached phase three of trials, the last step before implementation, and is widely regarded as the main candidate to deliver. Pictured: Walk-through test center in Stirling

The Oxford University vaccine, produced with drug giant AstraZeneca, is one of only nine to have reached phase three of trials, the last step before implementation, and is widely regarded as the main candidate to deliver. Pictured: Walk-through test center in Stirling

Professor Pollard said early results showed the vaccine causes the body to make antibodies against Covid, and these last for at least three months.

Professor Pollard said early results showed the vaccine causes the body to make antibodies against Covid, and these last for at least three months.

The Oxford vaccine is based on a type of genetically engineered coronavirus that gives chimpanzees a form of the common cold.

Trials of the vaccine involve 20,000 volunteers in Britain and other countries receiving the vaccine or a harmless placebo.

Professor Pollard said early results showed the vaccine causes the body to make antibodies against Covid, and these last for at least three months.

Tests on volunteers who received the blow in April will soon show whether they lasted six months.

“The evidence to date in the lab is that the antibodies are able to stop the virus in its tracks,” Professor Pollard said.

At least one person taking part in the trial fell seriously ill and had to be hospitalized for the disease, he added.

Kate Bingham, head of the UK vaccine task force, said there was only a “slim” chance that the Oxford jab would be ready for Christmas.

She said she felt optimistic about the data seen so far in the trials.

But she cautioned against assuming that a Covid-19 vaccine would be better than flu shots, which are only around 50% effective.

“It’s very likely that it will be next year,” she added.

Vaccine stopped after volunteer falls ill

Another coronavirus vaccine trial has been suspended following an unexplained illness in one of its volunteers.

U.S. firm Johnson & Johnson announced yesterday that the trial has been put on hold pending a safety review. It comes about a month after the end of trials of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, after a volunteer in the UK fell ill with “unexplained neurological symptoms”.

This trial then resumed, but not yet in the United States. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a virus as a “Trojan horse” to provide a genetic code that prompts cells to recognize and fight the coronavirus. The UK government has made a deal to get 30 million doses, and it is expected to be available in early 2021.

Experts say it’s not unusual for vaccine trials to be suspended. Danny Altmann, Imperial College London, said: “I think we are noting that these vaccine trials are stalling more than usual because we are not used to putting such a spotlight on the trials. .

“So while it wouldn’t normally be strange to stop by to investigate an adverse event, we are alarmed here under close scrutiny.

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said, “The participant’s illness is being reviewed and assessed by the Independent Data Security Oversight Committee as well as our internal clinical and security physicians. There will be a careful review of all medical information before deciding to restart the study.

No details of the person who fell ill are made public.

Stephen Evans of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said: “In most cases, single adverse events are coincidence, especially when they include a large number of participants.

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