Britain can expect another 18 months of Covid misery until a vaccine that protects against all variants is developed and rolled out, Chris Whitty warned today.
The chief medical officer said he expects a universal jab that can fight multiple strains to be ready at some point in mid-2023 as well as several new antiviral drugs, which should do the ‘heavy lifting’ for the NHS.
But he admitted that in the meantime, ministers will have to rely on social restrictions when vaccine-resistant variants like Omicron threaten to overwhelm the health service.
Speaking to MPs on the Health and Social Care Select Committee, Professor Whitty said: ‘If I project forward, I would anticipate in a number of years, possibly 18 months, possibly slightly less… we will have polyvalent vaccines which will cover a much wider range [of variants].
‘And we will probably have several antivirals… and a variety of other countermeasures that mean that the great majority, and probably almost all of the heavy lifting, when we get a new variant, unless it is extremely different, can be met by medical means.’
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