A former World Health Organization director believes that the coronavirus could “burn out naturally” before a vaccine has been developed.
Dr. Karol Sikora, a British oncologist and a former WHO chief, said he suspects the world is more immune than estimates suggest.
“We are seeing a roughly similar pattern everywhere – I suspect we have more immunity than estimated” he said.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said yesterday that a global licensing deal had been signed between Oxford University and drugs giant AstraZeneca.
It will make 30 million doses of its vaccine by September – if it works – and half of Brits will be first to get the jab.
But Prof Sikora, former head of the WHO’s cancer programme, reckons coronavirus will have “burned out” before a jab is available.
Writing on Twitter, he said: “There is a real chance that the virus will burn out naturally before any vaccine is developed.
“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.”
The oncologist, who is currently chief medical officer at Rutherford Health, caveated his comment, adding: “It is my opinion that this is a feasible scenario.
“Nobody is claiming to know what will happen for sure – I believe in an unknown situation this is a possibility.
“We need to continue to keep our distance and hope the numbers continue to improve.”
He later said that hopes of getting a vaccine by September were an “extremely optimistic timetable”.
“Getting 30 million vaccine doses approved and delivered by the Autumn would be a remarkable feat,” Prof Sikora said.
“Let’s see. Professor Sarah Gilbert and her team are doing amazing work – if anyone can do it, they can.”
Other British experts have also cast doubt on whether a coronavirus vaccine will be ready this year.
Professor Robin Shattock, head of mucosal infection and immunity at Imperial College London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we have a very high chance of seeing a number of vaccines that work because we know a lot about this target and I think there’s good scientific rationale to say it’s not such a hard target as others.
“My gut feeling is that we will start to see a number of candidates coming through with good evidence early towards next year – possibly something this year – but they won’t be readily available for wide-scale use into the beginning of next year as the kind of most optimistic estimation.”
Prof Shattock explained that there is a difference between having the systems in place to produce a vaccine once one is developed, and having the data that proves the vaccine actually works.