Don’t assume that a coronavirus vaccine will be effective more than half the time, the head of Britain’s task force cautioned Wednesday.
“The vaccines we have for flu are about 50 percent effective,” Kate Bingham, who chairs the British vaccine task force, told the Telegram. “We shouldn’t assume it’s going to be better than a flu vaccine, because that’s an equivalent — it’s a mutating … respiratory virus that gets in through the nose and eyes and respiratory tract.”
Midway through last year’s flu season, a series of six European studies that covered 10 nations found that effectiveness ranged from 29 percent to 61 percent. In 2019, U.S. estimates placed that year’s flu shot effectiveness at 47 percent.
In a Tuesday interview with Sky News, Bingham emphasized that a potential first wave of coronavirus vaccines would probably not be enough to end the pandemic, since it is unclear how effective they will be and how long the protection will last.
However, “a partially effective vaccine is better than no vaccine at all,” Bingham said. Although flu vaccines are often effective only half the time, they “have a big impact on reducing the clinical impacts of flu in the population,” she added.
British regulators expect to receive data on two potential vaccines that are in late-stage trials — one being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, the other by Pfizer and BioNTech — in a matter of weeks, Bingham said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will require an eventual coronavirus vaccine to be 50 percent effective, but Anthony S. Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in August that “we don’t know” whether the efficacy will be any higher than that.