Coronavirus could be with us for many years, says vaccine creator

‘It may end up like flu ... you might have the flu vaccine at the same time as the Covid vaccine’

One of the lead scientists who created the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has said we may be living with the virus for many years to come.

Prof Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University, said nobody knows when the pandemic will end.

“This is very likely to be a virus that is not going away completely, we may have to vaccinate against, certainly for vulnerable people, every winter or every second winter.

“It may end up like flu and you might have the flu vaccine at the same time as the Covid vaccine.”

Prof Hill said that the variants are increasingly transmissible, but don’t appear to be more virulent.

He made the comments at a British Embassy Glencairn Conversations webinar, which was held in conjunction with the Royal Irish Academy.

Prof Hill added that a vaccine against the Delta variant could be made if required.

He also predicted that we would gain a “substantial degree of control” over the virus by quarter three of this year. “There will be another wave, hopefully not a big one and hopefully not filling up hospitals, later this year. But it may take a couple of years to get this off the front pages of the newspapers.”

He added that the next big challenge would be vaccine supply. There are not enough manufacturers making the jabs to vaccinate the world’s population.

He said there was significant potential for Ireland to develop these vaccines as there is a large pharmaceutical industry here.

Pfizer in Grange Castle, WuXi, which is set to expand its plant in Dundalk by 2022, and APC in Cherrywood could create many different types of Covid vaccines, according to Prof Hill.

He also warned that we are facing a very inequitable distribution of vaccines at the moment. “If you’re in a rich country, you’ve probably been vaccinated. If you’re in a poor country, you’re probably not.”

All tools available

Prof Mary Horgan, president of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland and infectious disease consultant, said that public health has been under resourced for years and it is vital in ending the pandemic.

She added that we needed to embrace all tools available, such as PCR testing, rapid testing, contact tracing, good hand hygiene and masking, in order to live with the virus.

“Particularly for young people, who really have lost out a huge amount on this. They are most likely to get it, least likely to get sick, but the social impact on them is huge.”

She added that there has been a huge impact on people’s well-being and mental health, and we needed more positive messaging. “We are getting there, albeit slowly and in the right direction.”

Prof Horgan added that many of her patients are worried about the Delta variant, despite the fact they have been fully vaccinated.