Vaccinating enough of the UK population against Covid could take up to a year - according to scientists

Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 10:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 10:29 am

Leading scientists have warned that it could take almost a year, or possibly longer, to vaccinate the entire UK against Covid-19.

Sir Jeremy Farr, director of the Wellcome Trust and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said that the rapid development of vaccines in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was “a remarkable achievement.”

‘The scale should not be underestimated’

However, collaborating with Professor Tim Cook, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine from the University of Bristol, the two warned that there’s still a long way to go.

Published in the journal for the Association of Anaesthetists, the report said, “The scale of the vaccination programme should not be underestimated: 1,000 vaccination centres each vaccinating 500 people a day for five days a week, without interruptions of supply or delivery, would take almost a year to provide two doses to the UK population.

“No country has mounted a whole population vaccination campaign in living memory and it will need to be undertaken with local leadership and cultural sensitivity.”

While it is estimated that 20 per cent of the UK population may opt not to have the vaccine, the report states that “if 80 per cent were to be successfully vaccinated there would finally be the prospect of a degree of population (herd) immunity.”

The report explains that this would reduce virus transmission to very low levels in communities, and protect those who are vaccinated, as well as those who are not.

“In contrast to population immunity following natural infection, this would be achieved without the cost of an estimated half a million UK deaths,” the two scientists wrote.

The end of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Cook and Farr explain that gathering ongoing data as vaccines are used will mean that “improved second and third generation vaccines may be available later in 2021 and beyond.”

However, they emphasised that vaccines will not be “a final solution to Covid-19.”

“This is now a human endemic infection, which will not disappear, and like all infectious diseases, we will need to learn to mitigate its impact through adapting our behaviours and access to diagnostics, treatments and vaccines,” the scientists said.

‘All in this together’

Cook and Farr concluded the report by explaining that “the global problem of a pandemic requires a co-ordinated, collaborative and in part selfless global response.”

They said that the response to developing vaccines could act as a model for future collaborations.

“As a result of CEPI [Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations], Gavi [The Vaccine Alliance] and COVAX, the global response is immeasurably better than it would have been without them, and the world will be a safer place as a consequence,” the report states.

However, not all responses have been quite as selfless.

“There is informed self interest in global vaccine success and no country can be self sufficient, prosperous or safe by acting alone,” the report said.

“There is no merit or safety in creating high rates of vaccination and low rates of disease inside one country’s borders if this is not replicated throughout the rest of the world.

“We really are all in this together.”