Boris Johnson has described vaccine opponents as “nuts”, as the Prime Minister warned that coronavirus “could come back again” in the winter.
“There’s all these anti-vaxxers now,” Boris Johnson told nurses at GP surgery in London today.
“They are nuts, they are nuts.”
Speaking on the first anniversary of his premiership, the PM said he believes that by the “middle of next year” Britain will be “well on the way past” the coronavirus.
“But I must be clear with people, I do still think that we have tough times ahead in keeping this virus under control,” he added. “We have tough times ahead in coming through economically.”
Conspiracy theories about a potential coronavirus vaccine have proliferated during the pandemic, as the global race for a vaccine amps up ahead of a possible second wave in the winter.
More than 14 per cent of 2,065 Brits questioned by research agency ORB International last week said they would not want to be vaccinated against the coronavirus if a high-quality vaccine were available. A further 13 per cent were undecided.
It comes as a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceuticals giant Astrazeneca was this week deemed safe and found to induce a “strong response” from the immune system, in a major global breakthrough.
An initial trial of 1,077 people showed that the injection produced antibodies and white blood cells in patients, a new study published in the Lancet medical journal found.
However, deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam earlier this week said rollout of a potential vaccine would likely be limited to the most at-risk members of the public.
Van-Tam told the Health and Social Care Committee: “We may end up in the first instance with a vaccine that is most appropriately targeted and which has a label that restricts its use to a certain population.”
“As we know with this disease, the likelihood of death changes markedly with age. And so the risk benefit for a vaccine is likely to be very different by age.”
Hopes that a potential vaccine could be distributed before Christmas were dampened this week, when both the chief medical officer and health secretary said the chances of rolling out a vaccine in the coming months were “very low”.
Whitty said: “I want to be very clear we’re incredibly excited by and proud of what the UK has done in leading the way on vaccine science here and on funding vaccines elsewhere… but no one should be under any illusions — the chances of us getting a vaccine by Christmas that is actually highly effective is in my view very low.”
Meanwhile Matt Hancock said: “We’re working very hard on this but… I can’t promise to play Santa.”
The chief medical officer added that a potential second wave of the virus during the winter months was a “really serious concern,” as the UK still lacks the testing capacity to effectively enforce local lockdowns at the speed required.
Whitty said: “A surge in winter is a really serious concern looking forward [and] where I spend most of my thinking time.”
“We are now much more secure than we were a couple of months ago. But if we have a major surge in the winter that is simultaneous with a major surge… in many other countries, I think it would be foolish to say that the risk of this has completely gone away.