Coronavirus shock: Vaccine development may ‘not be a given’ warns government advisor

Sir Jeremy Farrar gave the grim news to Sophy Ridge on Sky News on Sunday. It comes as timetables for vaccine development had been set for at least 18 months.

Sir Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and one of the experts advising the government on its COVID-19 response, has said that he is “optimistic” that a vaccine can be developed.

But, he has cautioned that there is no guarantee.

He said: “The truth is we don’t have a vaccine for any other human coronavirus – common cold, SARS, MERS – and so it’s not a given that we will make a vaccine.

“I’m optimistic but it’s not whether it’s a vaccine or a treatment or a test or a diagnostic, the truth is we have to have all of these and we have to use them in parallel because we’re not sure which one of these will work and in the end actually we’ll need all of those.”

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He added that he held hope one could be developed for the end of the year, but it wouldn’t be widely available for some time afterwards.

Sir Farrar added: “If we did have a vaccine let’s say late in 2020 or into 2021, we would then need to manufacture it in billions of doses and make those billions of doses available to the world.

“So just having a vaccine that is safe and effective and proven is not enough, we have to think all the way through to the end of how we get this around the world because if there is any country vulnerable, if there is any country where there is still transmission of this virus, then every country is vulnerable.

“I hope we will have a vaccine towards the end of this year but that’s a vaccine in a vial, a vaccine that we believe to be safe, a vaccine that we think will be effective.

“That is not having a vaccine for the world.”

The news follows the Sunday Times revealing that scientist warnings to the government about COVID-19 were ignored.

It reported: “(The UK lost) a crucial five weeks in the fight to tackle the dangerous threat of the coronavirus despite being in a perilously poor state of preparation for a pandemic.”

It also held that Prime Minister Boris Johnson missed five COBRA meetings on the pandemic.

The government has rubbished the reports, stating: “This article contains a series of falsehoods and errors and actively misrepresents the enormous amount of work which was going on in government at the earliest stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

“This is an unprecedented global pandemic and we have taken the right steps at the right time to combat it, guided at all times by the best scientific advice.

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Sir Jeremy Farrar was also asked on Sky News whether he believed that the government were too slow in their response to the pandemic.

He said that “there must be lessons learnt” from the outbreak.

He said: “I think if you look at testing, yes, if you look at what was happening in Korea and Singapore and indeed in Germany, there was a much quicker ramping up of testing.

“Testing is critical, testing will be critical as we come out of this epidemic, the ramping up of testing, the provision of PPE in hospitals to protect healthcare workers, all of these in retrospect, yes, should have happened earlier.”

Sir Patrick Vallance has also issued warnings about the likelihood of a COVID-19 vaccine being too optimistic.

He wrote: All new vaccines that come into development are long shots.

“Only some end up being successful.

“Coronavirus will be no different and presents new challenges for vaccine development.

“This will take time.”

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