The comments comes amidst creeping concerns in the UK about the country’s increasing coronavirus R rate – that is, the rate of infection – which now sits between 0.9 and 1.1 – meaning that it has the potential to once again spread more rapidly across the nation.
Coronavirus will be around “forever” and people will therefore need regular vaccinations against it, according to a former British chief scientific adviser to the government.
Professor Sir Mark Walport, who is a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergences (SAGE), announced that the coronavirus will occur in regular seasonal bouts like the flu, and therefore people will need regular vaccinations against it.
Professor Walport told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the Covid-19 pandemic will like need to be controlled by a “global vaccination” and that it is not “going to be a disease like smallpox which could be eradicated by vaccination.”
“This is a virus that is going to be with us forever in some form or another and almost certainly will require repeated vaccinations. So, a bit like the flu, people will need re-vaccination at regular intervals,” he said.
The professor also noted that it is “possible” that the coronavirus will once again spin “out of control” but provided some cautious optimism by saying that localised lockdowns and other such area-targeted measures will cancel out the need for another nationwide lockdown.
“You’ve only got to see what’s happening in France, Spain, [and] in [South] Korea, which got it under control very quickly and is now seeing a rise in cases. And so this infection is with us,“ Walport said.
He noted that less than one in five people in the UK have been infected with the disease, meaning that roughly 80% of the population is still susceptible to Covid-19.
“It is this terrible balance between trying to minimise the harm to people from the infection while keeping society going,” he said. “People have argued very strongly that applying generic lockdowns isn’t the answer. Initially it had to be the case but now we can be a lot more targeted in the approach.”
Professor Walport’s comments come on the heels of an announcement by World Health Organisation Director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said that Covid-19 could be overcome within two years or less.
Comparing the current pandemic to the Spanish flu of 1918-1920 the WHO head has been widely quoted as saying that, “we have a disadvantage of globalisation, closeness, connectedness, but an advantage of better technology, so we hope to finish this pandemic before less than two years.”
Globally, the coronavirus has so far killed about 800,000 people, and infected nearly 23 million.
In the UK, there are about 323,000 confirmed cases, with reports approximating 41,405 deaths.