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.”
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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.”