Professor Calum Semple, who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the UK would be “looking towards the summer” before most of the population is vaccinated.
“And that’s what will give us the immunity, the broad immunity, that allows us to return to normal,” the Liverpool university virus outbreak expert said.
But asked on Ridge on Sunday on Sky News whether that meant social distancing continuing until summer, Semple said: “I doubt that, because if we can vaccinate the frail and the elderly, then that will take the pressure off for groups that will be coming into hospital with severe disease.”
Semple added: “I do think we will be seeing lifting of the restrictions in the spring and I think there’s a lot to be optimistic about here.”
Following the interview, the scientist admitted his comments amounted to “speculation” and his assessment would depend on having “good vaccination” of vulnerable groups and the wider population remaining careful to reduce transmission.
I'm first to say this is speculation and assumes that we have good vaccination in our most vulnerable groups and the rest of society has learnt to reduce transmission through behavioural change.
— Professor Calum Semple OBE (@ProfCalumSemple) November 22, 2020
It came after health secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS could start vaccinating people against Covid-19 in December.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has been asked to assess the suitability of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which has been found to be 90% effective.
The UK has ordered 40m doses of the vaccine, to cover 20m people, with enough for 10m jabs expected to be delivered by the new year.
The government has in total secured deals for 355m doses of prospective vaccines from several...