Brits will be able to fly around the world for their summer holidays next year, the Government’s coronavirus vaccine expert has predicted.
Kate Bingham said by the summer of 2021 “we should be in a much better place to get on planes”, but admits that the virus would never completely disappear.
The coronavirus vaccine taskforce chairwoman made the comments as the NHS begins a phased rollout of Pfizer’s Covid-19 jab to older people, health staff and care home workers.
Ms Bingham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “My gut feel is that we will all be going on summer holidays.
“It is likely that those people most at risk will be vaccinated through to April, and then the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) and the Department for Health will then consider how to broaden out the vaccinations to other adults.
“I think by the summer we should be in a much better place to get on planes.
“I don’t think we’re going to get away from this virus ever – so we’re going to have to maintain sensible hygiene and washing hands, and so on.
“I would like this vaccine to be as routine as an annual flu jab and that we manage it rather than get bowed down by it.”
She said she was “delighted” the UK is the first country to start vaccination, and said she expected the Oxford vaccine would get approved too – though said there were plans if it does not come through.
“I am optimistic that the Oxford vaccine will get approved, and because of what we have put in place in terms of our industrial legacy and those plans, we will be in a much better position for the future for generating new vaccines as and when we need them.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock shared Ms Bingham’s optimism for some normality next year, saying he has “great hopes” for the summer and hopes that restrictions can be lifted from the spring.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve said that we think that, from the spring, things can start getting back to normal, and, because we’ve been able to get this vaccination programme going sooner than anywhere else in the world, we’ll be able to bring that date forward a bit.
“I have great hopes for summer 2021 and I hope we can lift the restrictions from the spring.”
But he stressed that while the vaccine rollout is an “incredibly important moment on the march out of this pandemic”, he cautioned that “we’ve still got a long march to go this winter”.
“People need to keep respecting the rules and try to live in a way that if you have the virus infects as few people as possible.
“And we are seeing rising numbers of cases in parts of Essex, parts of Kent and parts of London in particular – and we’ve got to keep this under control.”