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First generation of coronavirus vaccines 'likely to be imperfect,' UK official warns

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The chair of the U.K.’s coronavirus task force has warned that the yet-to-be-approved first generation of coronavirus vaccines is “likely to be imperfect” and that the public should remember that “we do not know that we will ever have a vaccine at all.”

“The first generation of vaccines is likely to be imperfect, and we should be prepared that they might not prevent infection but rather reduce symptoms, and even then, might not work for everyone or for long,” Kate Bingham wrote in an article titled “The U.K. Government’s Vaccine Taskforce: strategy for protecting the U.K. and the world,” which was published Tuesday in The Lancet.

Bingham said the U.K. has invested in several companies developing vaccine candidates “to give the U.K. the greatest chance of providing a safe and effective vaccine, recognizing that many, and possibly all, of these vaccines, could fail.” She said the country has focused on potential vaccines that would protect people 65 and older, as the greatest amount of coronavirus fatalities in the U.K. occur among this group.

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She also warned about the challenges mass inoculation poses once a vaccine is approved, concerns commonly voiced by leaders across the world.

“No-one has ever done mass vaccination of adults anywhere in the world before and the two-dose regimen, plus cold-chain restrictions for some vaccines, adds to the complexity of this deployment operation,” Bingham wrote. “National Health Service England has flexible deployment plans to start the vaccination of prioritised cohorts as soon as the vaccines are approved by the regulatory authorities, currently not to be coadministered with the influenza vaccination (although clinical trials are exploring coadministration of influenza and COVID-19 vaccines).”

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Speaking to BBC Today this week, Bingham reportedly said the first round of rollout, if a vaccine is approved in the coming weeks, could be before Christmas, but that 2021 was a more realistic target.

“If the first two vaccines, or either of them, show that they are both safe and effective, I think there is a possibility that vaccine rollout will start this side of Christmas, but otherwise I think it’s more realistic to expect it to be early next year,” she said, according to Reuters.

As of Wednesday, the U.K. had tallied over 945,000 coronavirus cases and more than 45,700 deaths. Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, is reportedly facing pressure to implement a national lockdown as the number of new cases continues to spike.

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