A Dundee expert working with coronavirus patients has said the latest vaccine results from Oxford University could spell “game over” for the pandemic.
Professor James Chalmers, who is working in the Covid-19 wards at Ninewells Hospital, said he is becoming increasingly convinced that coronavirus is a “preventable disease” after another vaccine trial showed positive results.
However, he warned herd immunity will only be possible if enough people agree to take a vaccine.
Prof Chalmers, a consultant respiratory physician, said: “It’s fantastic news. We now have several potentially effective vaccines in the works. That tells us this is a vaccine preventable disease.”
Trials by Pfizer have come back with efficacy results of more than 90%, while the latest Oxford University and AstraZeneca trials are slightly lower at about 70%
Prof Chalmers said the numbers were still high in terms of success rates and the fact the Oxford vaccine does not need to be kept at such low temperatures as the Pfizer one is another point in its favour.
“Even 70% is far better than the flu vaccine is in most cases. If we can get a vaccine that effective, then that’s game over for the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
“We will be able to achieve herd immunity. The news is that good.
“The Pfizer data was fantastic, but the super freezer requirement will be a considerable challenge,” he added.
“The Oxford one doesn’t require to be frozen in the same way, which means we can roll it out a lot easier. This is sensational news.”
He predicted there will need to be a “massive campaign” to encourage people to take a vaccine.
He said: “Only about 60% of people take a flu vaccine each year, and we’ll need more than that in order to achieve herd immunity.
“It’s difficult to put a figure on it, but about 80% is what we need for Covid.
“If that is achieved, I think we can realistically expect life to get back to normal by April.
“The thing we don’t know yet is how long the immunisation will last for.
“It could be that there will need to be a vaccine taken every year. We just don’t know yet. But how amazing it would be to be able to turn the page on this and look back on Covid-19 as something we have beaten.
“I see the people in the wards here at Ninewells and that’s all I can hope for them and that we can close these wards down.
“It brings a tear to the eye to think it could be over.”