Health and Science

Coronavirus vaccine will not be a cure-all, virologist warns

No clear evidence antibodies protect against Covid-19 reinfection: virologist

A vaccine for the new coronavirus will not be a "cure-all" solution to the pandemic, a virologist has cautioned.

Speaking to CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Friday, Robert Lambkin-Williams, an independent virologist at Virology Consult Ltd, said there was no clear evidence that antibodies produced to fight off the virus gave people any protection against being reinfected with Covid-19.

"That's important because we don't know if the vaccines that encourage those antibodies to be produced are going to work," he explained, adding that the scientific community remained hopeful that antibodies would prevent the coronavirus from infecting individuals more than once.

Even if antibodies did provide immunity, however, Lambkin-Williams warned that there may be too much expectation being pinned on the impact a vaccine could have.

"The vaccine is not going to be a cure-all. We have not had a successful vaccine against this type of virus ever," he told CNBC. "We will get a vaccine of some description in the next couple of years, but it will not be perfect and it will need to be developed going forward."

There are currently at least 141 vaccines for the coronavirus being tested around the world, according to the WHO, 16 of which are in the more advanced clinical trial phase.

Sticking to mitigation measures

Because of the uncertainty that remained around immunity and the effectiveness of a preliminary vaccine, Lambkin-Williams urged the public to adhere to guidelines on mitigating the spread of Covid-19.

"We're going to have to adapt, and nobody should think that by Christmas it's all going to be back to normal because in the Western Hemisphere, and the Northern Hemisphere particularly, we've got normal colds and flu about to arrive," he said. "So we're going to have this and two more respiratory diseases affecting us."

According to Lambkin-Williams, the best ways to reduce community transmission of the coronavirus were to wear a comfortable-fitting face covering, avoid touching your own face and practice good hand hygiene.

"The virus is particularly spread by touch, say if you touch one surface, you then touch another surface and then you touch your face," he explained.

Face coverings were important, Lambkin-Williams noted, because infected people were much less likely to pass the virus on to someone else if they wore one.

"Wearing a face covering and using PPE (personal protective equipment) and hand sanitizers, all of those things protect at the community level, they're keeping the virus down, and all the time we keep the virus down, we protect the individual," he said.

"We can't keep our economies locked down in the way they are. It's not good for the economy and it's not good for people individually because mental health is an extremely important component of anybody's welfare," Lambkin-Williams added. "So we have to learn to live with the virus."

The new strain of coronavirus, first reported to the WHO in late December, has infected at least 9.6 million people globally and caused almost 500,000 deaths worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.