COVID-19 Will be There for Decades Even With Vaccine, Warns Top Scientist Leading Imperial College Trials

Even if a vaccine is out earliest by this year, achieving herd immunity will be difficult and annual boosting like influenza will be required to eradicate the virus

If you thought that the impact of Coronavirus will be gone once a vaccine is out for the public, you might be wrong. As per a U.K.-based scientist who is leading a vaccine trial, COVID-19 will be there for decades and just like the seasonal flu, you may need an annual booster to keep the virus in check.

With many countries including the U.S. and India observing spikes in the daily number of positive cases, the race for a vaccine has been in full swing. Over 300 potential vaccine candidates are in different phases around the world. But professor, Robin Shattock, who is leading the second phase of the clinical trials of Imperial College vaccine, believes even if a vaccine is out, which is expected to be in early 2021 or November by latest, has this warning.

May Require Annual Boosting

Robin Shattock
Robin Shattock is leading Imperial College's COVID-19 vaccine trials in the U.K. Imperial College/ World Economic Forum

He believes, a COVID-19 vaccine will work similarly to that of the influenza ones, which require annual boosting in order to provide herd immunity. In the case of the Coronavirus vaccine, a genetic material will be extracted from it and then it will be delivered to the body to produce the spike proteins. It will in turn trigger the immunity system and stop the virus from causing the COVID-19 disease.

"It's highly likely that we may need vaccinations to be boosted, possibly even on an annual basis, as we do for influenza. One of the advantages our particular approach has is that it's a low dose and it can be used as frequently as required," Shattock told BBC's Radio Four.

His warning further confirmed the claims of a study that revealed the pandemic could last for two years. The study, done by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, concluded that the pandemic will be there beyond 2022 even if a vaccine came out early. Another researcher, Professor Sir John Bell of the University of Oxford, too said that the vaccine was unlikely to have a durable effect.

Imperial College Vaccine Trials

While the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate is currently in the final trial phase and is showing promising results, Imperial College's vaccine is in a combined Phase I and II. With 15 volunteers, the trial has gone underway and around 200 to 300 volunteers more are expected to join the program in the coming days. The second phase of the trial has been planned for 6,000 people.

In the pre-clinical studies, the vaccine has successfully produced antibodies in mice and it was able to neutralize the virus. But a larger study must be done on humans for it to be effective, besides examining the side-effects. However, unlike the Oxford vaccine, Shattock does not promise the vaccine will be available this year.

"We need a series of vaccines. We often talk about this as a race, but we need as many groups to get past the finishing post as possible. When we think of things on a global scale, developing enough vaccines for seven billion people is going to be too big a thing for a single group to do," he said.

He added that the goal of the vaccine was to prevent Coronavirus infection and eliminate the disease but whether it could achieve that would depend on further testing, for which more data was required.

Related topics : Coronavirus