Coronavirus: Top scientist who battled COVID-19 says we will never live normally without vaccine

Yahoo News UK
Professor Peter Piot is recovering after contracting COVID-19 (AFP via Getty Images)
Professor Peter Piot is recovering after contracting COVID-19 (AFP via Getty Images)

A top scientist who fell ill with COVID-19 has said the world will never return to normal unless there is a coronavirus vaccine.

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Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, spent a week in hospital after contracting the virus in March.

The Belgian virologist, who led the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS between 1995 and 2008, said climbing a flight of stairs still leaves him breathless.

Last week, a World Health Organization (WHO) official warned there may never be a coronavirus vaccine.

Prof Piot, one of the discoverers of the Ebola virus, is currently a coronavirus adviser to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

In an interview with Belgian magazine Knack, later translated by Science Magazine, he warned that a vaccine is needed for people to live normally again.

“The Commission is strongly committed to supporting the development of a vaccine,” he said.

“Let’s be clear: Without a coronavirus vaccine, we will never be able to live normally again.

“The only real exit strategy from this crisis is a vaccine that can be rolled out worldwide.

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“That means producing billions of doses of it, which, in itself, is a huge challenge in terms of manufacturing logistics. And despite the efforts, it is still not even certain that developing a COVID-19 vaccine is possible.”

Prof Piot criticised anti-vaxxers, saying: “Today there’s also the paradox that some people who owe their lives to vaccines no longer want their children to be vaccinated.

“That could become a problem if we want to roll out a vaccine against the coronavirus, because if too many people refuse to join, we will never get the pandemic under control.”

He said he hoped the coronavirus pandemic can help ease political tensions, citing how polio vaccination campaigns have led to truces between countries.

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He said he hoped the WHO could be “reformed to make it less bureaucratic”, saying it too often resembles a “political battleground”.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the US is the worst-hit country by coronavirus, with more than 79,500 deaths, followed by the UK with more than 31,900 and Italy with more than 30,500.

On Sunday, British prime minister Boris Johnson announced a range of new measures to ease the UK out of its COVID-19 lockdown.

However, his announcement of the government’s measures was criticised by scientists, opposition politicians and workers’ unions, who called it confusing.

The government was left scrambling on Monday to bring some kind of clarity to the new measures. A 50-page document outlining the easing of restrictions was published on Monday.

From Wednesday, people will be able to meet one person from another household in a park as long as they stay two metres apart.

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