The UK vaccine roll-out won’t end the need for Covid-19 restrictions, a leading health expert has warned.
Karen Taylor, director of the UK Centre for Health Solutions at Deloitte, said: “We can’t think vaccination will be the solution to this. It’s just one part of the armoury we need.”
She told a Travel Weekly Insight Report launch event in December: “There is a long way to go before we have the level of coverage we need even in the UK.
“It will be spring before we start inoculating more than just the vulnerable, healthcare workers and frontline people most at risk in the UK, and it will take some years for the vaccine to be rolled out across the world.
“We’re talking about a global pandemic and an industry [travel] which has global reach. If you look across Europe, countries that largely escaped real problems in the first wave are seeing different rates of infection [now].
“There are different patterns across the world. So we have to be cautiously optimistic about the vaccine, but we can’t abandon the mitigating strategies that will continue to be important for a long time – social distancing, mask wearing and general hygiene.”
Asked how long such measures would remain, Taylor said: “Certainly for the next 12 months. The Covid virus will be with us for some time because it has such a reach and spread.
“We don’t know enough about the [virus] behaviour. We don’t know how long immunity lasts.”
She added: “Scientists are saying we’ll see more outbreaks. Maybe we’ll see mask wearing become culturally accepted, certainly for travel.”
Taylor acknowledged uncertainty about how many people will accept vaccination.
She said: “Vaccine hesitancy always exists. People are being asked to put a virus into their body [and] 5%-10% of people vaccinated won’t be immune to the virus. Then there are the anti-vaxxers.
“Hesitancy is understandable. But people are also saying ‘This is the right thing to do’ so I hope the hesitancy can be overcome. We need strong, consistent communication about the vaccine and its safety and efficacy.”
Taylor insisted: “The most-important thing is the outbreak has shown the importance of strong public health infrastructure. Many countries have not been investing in public health. Now we’ve built some great infrastructure, I hope all countries will prioritise public health.
“While the vaccine is a great step forward, it won’t work on its own. We need to continue the mitigation strategies.
“There are too many unknowns to be able to say with confidence what the next stage will be. Rather than [talk about] ‘post-Covid’, ‘Covid under control’ is the way to look at it.”