KEY POINTS

  • A UK chief scientific adviser said a vaccine will unlikely eradicate the novel coronavirus
  • His best assessment is that COVID-19 "will look more like an annual flu"
  • His comments come as the UK prepares to launch a human challenge vaccine trial

A coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to prevent the spread of the virus and stop it from becoming an endemic, according to Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the U.K. government. 

The British physician on Monday said none of the potential vaccines currently in late-stage trials might be able to eradicate COVID-19. 

During a meeting with the National Security Strategy Committee, Vallance said it is unlikely that the world will receive a sterilizing vaccine that can completely stop the infection. He also noted that only smallpox has been "truly eradicated" by highly effective vaccines. 

"The notion of eliminating COVID from anywhere is not right, because it will come back," Vallance said. "We can't be certain, but I think it's unlikely we will end up with a truly sterilizing vaccine; [that is] something that completely stops infection, and it's likely this disease will circulate and be endemic, that's my best assessment."

According to Intermountain Healthcare, the word "endemic" means it has a constant presence in a particular community or country. Such is the case with malaria, which is endemic to parts of Africa.

"Clearly as management becomes better, as you get vaccination which would decrease the chance of infection and the severity of disease ... this then starts to look more like annual flu than anything else, and that may be the direction we end up going," Vallance added.

His comments come as the U.K. prepares to launch a controversial human challenge trial where young and healthy volunteers between ages 18 and 30 would be intentionally exposed to COVID-19 to test the vaccine's effectiveness. 

According to ABC News, the experiment will be conducted in a quarantine ward in a hospital located in North London. Participants will be asked to inhale a diluted dose of the virus. They will be monitored by scientists and doctors, including Andrew Catchpole, the chief scientist of hVIVO. The company will run the trials in collaboration with the British government. 

"So the virus, which we would inoculate them with, has been manufactured to the very high standards, a medical grade version of the virus that undergoes very high regulatory scrutiny to make sure that that virus is safe and suitable for use -- just like you would expect for any other licensed medicine," he said. 

Companies and governments are racing to develop vaccines in a bid to arrest the pandemic Companies and governments are racing to develop vaccines in a bid to arrest the pandemic Photo: AFP / Yasin AKGUL