The head of the UK vaccine workforce said the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines “would probably be imperfect” and that “they may not work for everyone”.
Writing in The ropeKate Bingham said that no vaccine in the history of medicine “has been so eagerly awaited” and that “vaccination is widely regarded as the only real strategy to overcome the pandemic that is currently spreading globally.”
But she warned of over-optimism that any vaccine might not work for everyone or for very long.
“We do not know if we will ever have a vaccine,” she wrote. “It is important to beware of complacency and over-optimism.
“The first generation of vaccines is probably imperfect and we need to be prepared not to prevent infection, but to reduce the symptoms and even then not work for everyone or for long.”
The vaccine task was created by Sir Patrick Valens, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government. It was established within the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in May 2020, and Ms. Bingham reports directly to the Prime Minister.
In an article for The Lancet, she said: “The strategy is to build a diverse portfolio in a variety of formats to give the UK the best chance of providing a safe and effective vaccine, acknowledging that many of these vaccines may fail.”
Ms. Bingham’s article came as a review of research on coronavirus vaccines, calling for a standardized approach to assessing the effectiveness of all potential COVID-19 inoculations.
Publishing their findings in the journal The Lancet of Infectious Diseases, researchers at the University of Oxford said a significant comparison of different candidates was needed to ensure that only the most effective vaccines were available.
Dr Susanna Hodgson, of the University of Oxford, who co-authored the review, said: “It is unlikely that we will see a single vaccine winner in the race against Covid-19.
“Different technologies will bring significant advantages that are relevant in different situations, and in addition, there will likely be challenges in producing and supplying a vaccine on the required scale, at least initially.”
“Taking a standardized approach to measuring the success of vaccines in clinical trials will be important to make meaningful comparisons so that the most effective candidates can be taken forward for wider use.”
There are more than 200 candidates for vaccines in development worldwide, with 44 in clinical trials.
Of the 44, nine are in a three-phase clinical evaluation phase and are given to thousands of people to confirm safety and effectiveness.