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COVID-19 vaccine may not be enough to return to normal life till end of 2021

Scientists warn that we need to be "realistic" about what a COVID-19 vaccine could achieve and when. Things may not return to normal for more than a year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raged on for almost a year now. But thankfully, vaccines are now in the final stages of development and this brings hope to people across the world that the health crisis will end soon. It is true that an effective vaccine will offer relief to the global population reeling under the impact of this viral disease. But scientists caution that it is too early to say anything. Even mass immunisations may not mean a return to normal life as we know it yet. Production may not meet demand and the haste with which vaccines are being developed may also mean that total immunity against the disease may not be possible.

A vaccine is often seen as the holy grail that will end the pandemic. At present, more than 200 vaccines to protect people against the virus are being developed by scientists around the world. It must be noted here that this process is taking place at unprecedented speed. But even an effective coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine will not return life to normal in spring, a group of leading scientists has warned.

Be realistic, experts warn

A report from researchers brought together by the Royal Society said we need to be "realistic" about what a vaccine could achieve and when. They said restrictions may need to be "gradually relaxed" as it could take up to a year to roll the vaccine out, the BBC reported on Thursday. The report also says that though a vaccine offers great hope for potentially ending the pandemic, but it is a known fact that the history of vaccine development is littered with lots of failures.

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There is optimism, including from the UK government's scientific advisers, that some people may get a vaccine this year and mass vaccination may start early next year. However, the Royal Society report warns it will be a long process. Even when the vaccine is available, it doesn't mean within a month everybody is going to be vaccinated. It may take about six months, nine months... a year. Nobody can say for sure. There is no question that life will suddenly return to normal in March, say researchers. The report said there were still "enormous" challenges ahead.

Questions about vaccine efficacy do the rounds

Some of the experimental approaches being taken - such as RNA vaccines - have never been mass produced before. There are questions around raw materials - both for the vaccine and glass vials - and refrigerator capacity, with some vaccines needing storage at minus 80C. According to estimates by experts, vaccinating people would have to take place at a pace, 10 times faster than the annual flu campaign and would be a full-time job for up to 30,000 trained staff. There is the fear that not enough thinking is going into the whole system. Early trial data has suggested that vaccines are triggering an immune response, but studies have not yet shown if this is enough to either offer complete protection or lessen the symptoms of COVID.

(With inputs from IANS)

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