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Health & Fitness Covid? What Covid? Moderna boss expects pandemic to be done in a year

17:15  23 september  2021
17:15  23 september  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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The coronavirus pandemic will have blown over by next year, according to the boss of one of the first drug giants to get a Covid vaccine approved.

Moderna's chief executive Stéphane Bancel said enough jabs will have been made to vaccinate all of the world's 7.7billion people by the middle of next year.

Asked when life would return to normal, he said: 'As of today, in a year, I assume.'

Meanwhile, an array of top experts have also lined up to talk down the threat of the virus, which first emerged in China towards the end of 2019.

Sir John Bell, one of the Government's advisers on vaccines, today claimed Britain was 'over the worst' and 'should be fine' once winter has passed.

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Oxford University's Dame Sarah Gilbert, who helped create AstraZeneca's jab, last night reiterated Covid will eventually just become a cold — which some scientists tracking the UK's outbreak say is already happening.

And in another ray of hope, Dame Sarah also insisted it was unlikely to mutate into an even deadlier variant.

Influential SAGE member Professor Neil Ferguson today also claimed it was unlikely another full-blown lockdown would be needed.

But the Imperial College London epidemiologist, whose grisly projections spooked ministers into the first nationwide shutdown last spring, echoed No10's warning that some restrictions could be needed if pressure starts to explode on hospitals.

Boris Johnson has already rolled the pitch for the return of masks, work from home guidance and vaccine passports when he unveiled his winter plan to fight Covid last week.

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Daily hospitalisation admissions are currently dropping, with 747 Covid-infected Brits seeking care on September 18 — down nearly a fifth in a week.

But cases finally appear to be on the rise again, in what some experts believe may be a delayed back-to-school wave. Experts feared the return of millions of pupils would trigger a meteoric spike in infections after cases spiralled to record highs in Scotland, when children went back in mid-August.

Infection rates across the UK rose by 13 per cent yesterday compared to one week earlier, with 34,460 cases recorded, according to official Department of Health and Social Care.

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It marked the fifth day in a row that cases have ticked upwards.

But mirroring the drop seen in hospital admissions, 166 deaths were recorded, down 17 per cent from last week.

It comes as Mr Bancel told Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung the pandemic could be over within 12 months, as a hike in global vaccine production will ensure there is enough to double-jab everyone in the world.

Number of Britons falling ill with Covid every day falls by 5% in a week, symptom-tracking app shows

The number of Britons falling ill with Covid every day fell five per cent last week, according to one of the country's biggest surveillance projects.

King's College London scientists estimated 45,081 people caught the virus every day in the week to September 18, down from 47,276 in the previous seven-day spell.

But the data showed there was an uptick in infections among under-18s, in yet another sign of a delayed back-to-school wave of infections. Experts warned cases would spiral after children returned to classrooms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in September.

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Professor Tim Spector, who leads the study, warned today that the UK still had one of the highest infection rates in Europe and called for the Covid symptoms list to be updated to help get a handle on infections.

He said the classic three symptoms — cough, fever and loss of taste and smell — were rarer these days thanks to vaccines which had made the virus more like a bad cold. He said other warning signs like a sore throat, runny nose and sneezing should be added to the list.

The symptom-tracking apps figures differ from the Department of Health dashboard, which shows Covid cases have risen week-on-week for the last five days. But both are pointing to a surge in cases among youngsters.

Experts have warned the study — also run by health data science company ZOE — is becoming less reliable because vaccines have made it harder to pick out Covid from other respiratory infections like flu. Almost nine in ten over-16s have got at least one dose of the jab.

Latest figures from Test and Trace showed the number of people that tested positive for the virus in England fell 22 per cent last week, after there were 161,923 positive tests. This was the lowest number since the end of June.

He said: 'If you look at the industry-wide expansion of production capacities over the past six months, enough doses should be available by the middle of next year so that everyone on this earth can be vaccinated.'

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And there will be enough injections to give boosters to everyone who needs them and vaccinate children, he said.

People who don't get inoculated will inevitably catch the virus and get antibodies from natural infection, the vaccine boss said.

He told the newspaper: 'Those who do not get vaccinated will immunize themselves naturally, because the Delta variant is so contagious.

'In this way we will end up in a situation similar to that of the flu. You can either get vaccinated and have a good winter.

'Or you don't do it and risk getting sick and possibly even ending up in hospital.'

Asked if that meant a return to normal in the second half of next year, he said: 'As of today, in a year, I assume.'


Video: How Might COVID End? (The Independent)

Mr Bancel said he expected Governments to approve booster shots for people already vaccinated because patients at risk who were vaccinated last autumn 'undoubtedly' needed a refresher.

Moderna's booster injection is a half dose of the vaccine used for first and second jabs, which means there are more booster doses available.

He said: 'The volume of vaccine is the biggest limiting factor.

'With half the dose, we would have 3billion doses available worldwide for the coming year instead of just 2billion,' he said.

The composition of the booster shot remains the same as the original for this year because Moderna had not had enough time to change it.

'We are currently testing Delta-optimized variants in clinical trials. They will form the basis for the booster vaccination for 2022. We are also trying out Delta plus Beta, the next mutation that scientists believe is likely,' he said.

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Moderna can use existing production lines for the new variants as for the original Covid vaccine and the price of vaccination will stay the same, Mr Bancel added.

Around 1.5million Britons have already had Moderna's Covid vaccine.

Its roll-out was slow when it was first approved, any the majority of adults had already been given Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

It comes as Sir John, a regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, said Britain is 'over the worst' of the pandemic and 'should be fine' once winter has passed.

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His comments followed the Royal Society of Medicine webinar last night, where Dame Sarah said viruses tend to become 'less virulent' — meaning they have less severe outcomes, such as hospitalisation and death — as they spread more easily.

She said 'there is no reason to think we will have a more virulent version' of Covid and there will be growing immunity in the population, as there is with all other seasonal coronaviruses.

Asked about these comments on Times Radio, Sir John said: 'If you look at the trajectory we're on, we're a lot better off than we were six months ago.

'So the pressure on the NHS is largely abated. If you look at the deaths from Covid, they tend to be very elderly people, and it's not entirely clear it was Covid that caused all those deaths.

'So I think we're over the worst of it now.'

chart: King's College London scientists estimated 45,081 people caught the virus every day in the week to September 18, down from 47,276 in the previous seven-day spell © Provided by Daily Mail King's College London scientists estimated 45,081 people caught the virus every day in the week to September 18, down from 47,276 in the previous seven-day spell But the data showed there was an uptick in infections among under-18s, in yet another sign of a delayed back-to-school wave of infections. Experts had warned children returning to classrooms would trigger a spike in cases © Provided by Daily Mail But the data showed there was an uptick in infections among under-18s, in yet another sign of a delayed back-to-school wave of infections. Experts had warned children returning to classrooms would trigger a spike in cases

'Covid is going to just become a cold': Vaccine pioneer says virus will get weaker all the time

The scientist who created the Oxford vaccine has said Covid is unlikely to mutate into a much deadlier variant and will eventually just cause the common cold.

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert said 'there aren't very many places for the virus to go to have something that will evade immunity but still be a really infectious virus'.

She said viruses tend to 'become less virulent as they circulate' through the population, adding: 'There is no reason to think we will have a more virulent version of Sars-CoV-2'.

Dame Sarah said the virus which causes Covid-19 will eventually become like the coronaviruses which circulate widely and cause the common cold.

Her comments come as Professor Chris Whitty warned that almost all unvaccinated children will become infected with Covid at some point in the future and around half of youngsters have already caught the virus.

Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine seminar, Dame Sarah said: 'We already live with four different human coronaviruses that we don't really ever think about very much and eventually Sars-CoV-2 will become one of those.

He expects there to be sustained high infection rates caused by the Delta variant, including in double-jabbed people — who are unlikely to experience severe illness — and this will add to immunity in the population.

Sir John said: 'So I think we're headed for the position Sarah describes probably by next spring would be my view.

'We have to get over the winter to get there but I think it should be fine.'

He said 'it's pretty important that we don't panic about where we are now', because hospitalisations and deaths from Covid remain 'very low'.

Covid vaccines are working to prevent serious illness and death but 'don't really effectively reduce the amount of transmission', he noted.

This was the reason infection rates in Israel skyrocketed earlier this month and in Britain after the holidays.

Sir John said: 'If everybody's expecting the vaccines and the boosters to stop that, they won't. And it's slightly a false promise.'

He agreed with England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty that the vast majority of children would get Covid without a vaccine, adding 'this is now an endemic virus, it'll circulate pretty widely'.

But Sir John said there are 'no bad consequences' in children with the virus, adding that 'I don't think there's any reason to panic'.

He added: 'I don't think we're going to have a lot of children in intensive care units. And in fact, the evidence is we don't, we never have. And the likelihood of severe disease (is) quite small.'

Sir John said he believed the issue of long Covid 'has been slightly overblown', adding that 'proper epidemiological studies' find the incidence of long Covid is 'much lower than people had anticipated'.

And Professor Ferguson, whose pandemic forecasts triggered the Government to impose the first national lockdown last March, doesn't think the UK will 'need to go as far as full-blown lockdown'.

  Covid? What Covid? Moderna boss expects pandemic to be done in a year © Provided by Daily Mail

Asked in an Imperial interview today whether additional Covid restrictions would be needed later this year, he said: 'The thing that will drive the government is NHS demand.

'If we started seeing a really significant uptick in hospital admissions, that’s the point where we might need to consider the reintroduction of some degree of social distancing or other measures.

'I don’t think that will need to go as far as full-blown lockdown but we might need to reimpose certain restrictions just to get hospital admissions down again.'

He said official figures show that cases are rising in parts of the UK where schools opened earlier and infections among school-aged children are increasing.

But this 'hasn’t propagated through to the wider population', meaning 'we’re not seeing a rapid increase in case numbers associated with the opening of schools'.

Professor Ferguson said the challenge will come as Britain heads into the autumn and winter, when more people mix indoors, people move closer towards normal contact levels and protection from the vaccine among the first Britons who were jabbed begins to wane.

'So there’s also likely to be some upward pressure on case numbers,' he said.

But the UK's case trends are 'cautiously encouraging in the sense that we have flat or even slightly declining case numbers', Professor Ferguson added.

Read more

Pfizer, Moderna say they can quickly update vaccines 'if they need to' .
Manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines used in the US say they are taking quick action after recent revelations of the South African 'Nu' variant, and its high infectiousness and ability to evade vaccines.The recently emerged variant is believed to be the most infectious yet, and some fear it could evade protection provided but the current crop of COVID-19 vaccines.

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