When, or if, a vaccine is approved, Dr Pitt believes one dose might not be sufficient to make the world’s population immune: “You may need at least one booster. First of all, you would need to vaccinate everyone in the whole world, because it is so infectious.
“But then because of the way the virus behaves and the nature of what the vaccine is protecting against, you will probably need a booster – so that means 10s of billions of people will need two doses within something like 12 months. The initial version might work, but we have seen cases where people have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 more than once, so you will need a top up.”
Even if there is a vaccine, Dr Pitt says measures such as social distancing and the wearing of face coverings will be needed for some time and may be something people will have to get used to for years to come. She does, however, offer a hint of optimism.
Dr Pitt said: “If we have one dose of a working vaccine, maybe by the mid-summer of next year we might be back to something like normal. But that depends on people taking the virus seriously – it’s very dangerous and it has not gone away.
“We have already seen measures brought back in across the world and more restrictions may need to come in before the situation gets better – we are no-where near close to the end of this pandemic. I cannot stress enough how important it is to follow the basic guidelines of social distancing, wearing a face mask and washing your hands”.
Dr Pitt has previously discussed the possibility of the virus mutating to a version which may be less sinister, but she says there is no evidence of that yet: “It is mutating – but not in areas which really make any difference to the seriousness of its threat to humans.
“For a disease which has transferred from animals to humans, it is still very early. The virus and humans are, essentially, still getting used to each other. It will, I believe, eventually either die out completely, like we saw with SARS-1, or it will come into equilibrium with us, but I stress it is not happening yet. This is still a very dangerous disease”.