04 January 2022

Worst of the pandemic is ‘absolutely behind us’, says top Covid vaccine scientist

04 January 2022

One of the UK’s leading vaccine scientists and the driving force behind AstraZeneca says that the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic is behind us.

Oxford University professor, chief investigator of the Oxford Covid- 19 vaccine trials and director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Sir Andrew Pollard helped to develop the AstraZeneca jab in 2020.

Speaking to The Telegraph a year on from the first time AstraZeneca was administered to a member of the public, Prof Pollard expressed optimism going forward – even as the Omicron variant continues to ravage the UK.

“The worst is absolutely behind us. We just need to get through the winter,” he told the newspaper.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group. (Jeff Overs/PA) (PA Media)

As for Boris Johnson’s current handling of the crisis, with his relatively light restrictions across England, Prof Pollard said: “(It) seems to be working so far. 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.”

In the 12 months since AstraZeneca was injected into Brian Pinker, 82, a dialysis patient, nine billion Covid doses, including AstraZeneca, have been given worldwide.

In Britain alone, 90% of over-12s have had their first vaccine and more than 80% have had two doses, while 33 million boosters have been given.

82-year-old Brian Pinker receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Sam Foster at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford on January 4, 2021 (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Archive)

According to Prof Pollard, when the Oxford/AZ trials were first started in April 2020, vaccine scientists and investigators were told it would be two years before the vaccine could be rolled out.

With so much of the UK and other richer nations now vaccinated, Prof Pollard has added his voice to calls to “open up”, despite the ongoing threat from Omicron – which the latest UK studies have suggested is milder than Delta.

Prof Pollard told The Telegraph: “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.”

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