Coronavirus could ‘burn out naturally’ so vaccine not needed, former WHO director claims

Coronavirus could “burn out naturally” so a vaccine is no longer needed, a former World Health Organisation director has claimed, as the Government announces it is dedicating more than £90m to a dedicated inoculation development centre.

Professor Karol Sikora, an oncologist and chief medical officer at Rutherford Health, said it is likely the British public has more immunity than previously thought and Covid-19 could end up “petering out by itself”.

“There is a real chance that the virus will burn out naturally before any vaccine is developed,” he wrote on his social media profile yesterday. “We are seeing a roughly similar pattern everywhere – I suspect we have more immunity than estimated. We need to keep slowing the virus, but it could be petering out by itself.”

Professor Sikora’s comments come as Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, today (Sunday) announced that the Government would be investing £93m in the construction of the UK’s first dedicated Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), to be opened in summer next year, 12 months ahead of schedule.

A further £38m is being invested in creating a rapid deployment facility in the coming weeks, with the aim of ensuring any successful vaccine developed can be quickly distributed.

The VMIC, located on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, will have the capacity to produce enough vaccine doses to serve the entire UK population in as little as six months, the Government has said.

Sir Mark Walport, chief executive of UK Research and Innovation, described the VMIC as an “essential new weapon in the UK’s arsenal” which will provide a boost in the race to develop a vaccine by scientists at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London.

Mr Sharma said we need to be ready to “manufacture a vaccine by the millions” when the breakthrough comes, and this funding will help make that happen.

The VMIC’s chief executive, Dr Matthew Duchars, added: “This investment will rapidly accelerate the construction of the facility, enabling us to bring it online a year sooner. In addition, the capacity will be significantly increased, so that enough vaccines could be made for everyone in the UK within a matter of months of opening.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously admitted that an effective coronavirus vaccine may never be found.

Speaking at the Downing Street briefing on Monday evening, Mr Johnson said: “This is by no means guaranteed. I believe I’m right in saying that even after 18 years we still don’t have a vaccine for Sars.

“What I can tell you is that the UK is at the forefront of concerting international activity to try to deliver a vaccine.”

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