Worst of the pandemic is ‘absolutely behind us’ according to leading vaccine scientist

The leading vaccine scientist has backed calls for society to ‘open up’ and said we ‘just need to get through this winter’

A leading vaccine scientist has said that the worst of the Covid pandemic is “absolutely behind us” and that “at some point, society has to open up”.

The intervention comes as ministers are closely monitoring hospitalisation data on the omicron variant in England before deciding whether further restrictions are necessary.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • Speaking to the Telegraph, vaccine scientist Sir Andrew Pollard has said that the worst of the pandemic is “absolutely behind us” and called for society to “open up” again
  • He also revealed that when the trials for the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine first started, scientists were told it would take two years before the vaccine could be rolled out
  • Prof Pollard helped develop the Astrazeneca vaccine. He is an Oxford University professor, chief investigator of the Oxford Covid- 19 vaccine trials and director of the Oxford Vaccine Group
  • Nine billion doses of Covid vaccine have been administered worldwide in the 12 months since Brian Pinker, 82, was injected with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first member of the public to do so 
  • Although the government has said it will review the current restrictions in England on Wednesday (5 January) it is expected that this may be delayed further to allow more time to analyse the latest data on Omicron hospitalisations

What’s been said?

Speaking to The Telegraph, Professor Sir Andrew Pollard said: “The worst is absolutely behind us. We just need to get through the winter.”

“At some point, society has to open up. When we do open, there will be a period with a bump in infections, which is why winter is probably not the best time. But that’s a decision for the policy makers, not the scientists.

“Our approach has to switch, to rely on the vaccines and the boosters. The greatest risk is still the unvaccinated.”

Asked about Boris Johnson’s current handling of the crisis, with his relatively light restrictions across England, Prof Pollard said the prime minister’s current handling of the crisis, “seems to be working so far.

He added: “The system isn’t falling over. But it’s finely balanced.

“We can’t fully answer whether he’s got it right for some time.”