Covid vaccine: Will enough people in the UK be willing to be vaccinated to get rid of the virus?

Pfizer announced on Monday their early trials showed their vaccine was "90% effective." Credit: PA

The news of a coronavirus vaccine has lifted the hopes of many, but just because we can immunise people against Covid-19 doesn't mean the government will be able to.

Governments and scientists have been warning for months simply having a vaccine will not be enough to eradicate the coronavirus - the logistical operation required to immunise whole populations will be massive.

Professor Stephen Evans from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told ITV News we will need "about 80-90% of the population to have immunity" before the government can consider Covid-19 not a threat.

Convicting people to get vaccinated will be a challenge in itself. Credit: PA

He said some of that would come from immunity developed from people who have already had the virus but predicted around 70% of the population would need to be vaccinated.

If we reached that level then "herd immunity" would be achieved meaning the virus would not be able to survive in enough people to carry on sustaining itself.

Getting to that level will not be easy, studies have shown large proportions of the population in various countries would be sceptical about taking a coronavirus vaccine due how quickly it was developed and believing it will have unpredicted side effects.

A study by King's College London and Ipsos MORI carried out in August found only 53% of the population of the UK would be willing to take a coronavirus vaccine when it became available.

The study found people ages between 16-34 were twice as likely to not want to take a vaccine as those over 55.

On top of this the growth of unsubstantiated and false anti-vaccination conspiracy theories have spread across much of the western world, leading to more and more people to view the entire concept of a vaccine as dangerous.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference on Monday: “Vaccine misinformation has been out there ever since the first vaccines were made and it is exactly that, misinformation, and I don’t propose to give it any further airtime.”

Misinformation around vaccines could stymie efforts to immunise the population. Credit: PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the anti-vax argument “holds no water”.

Dr Joshua Blight, an expert in vaccinology at Imperial College London and co-founder of baseimmune vaccines, told ITV News of the importance placed on ensuring any vaccine is safe for the public.

He said the general public shouldn't necessarily expect a shot by the end of the year and explained: "That’s because extensive tests on vaccine safety, efficacy and manufacturability are still needed.

"Vaccine need has never been greater, that’s true. But there will be extreme reluctance to release a vaccine that hasn’t had all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed in terms of safety.

"If we get it wrong, public trust in vaccines, the most valuable global public health tool we’ve ever had, would plummet."

Dr Josh Blight spoke of the global effort to manufacture vaccines.

The speculation about vaccines was triggered after interim results from a jab developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech were found to be more than 90% effective.

Rolling out the vaccine will present a significant logistical operation for the government.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer needs to be stored at -70C and has to be taken in two doses three weeks apart, and will only become effective one week after the final jab.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday he had asked the NHS to be ready to deploy a vaccine from the start of December.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee in England, said practices would “stand ready” to deliver the vaccine, with clinics potentially running from 8am-8pm, seven days a week.

The government hasn't said if the vaccine will be mandatory or not, but has indicated that it will not force people to take it.

Professor Evans said: "Making it mandatory in our society would be a mistake in my view."

He said the government would have to be clear about the benefits and harms of the vaccine and share all the data they gathered on its deployment to address "rational fears".

He added some people are "irrational and that will require gradual education but some people will always be unconvinced".Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh, warned we still did not know enough about the Pfizer vaccine to properly plan yet, but acknowledged it is "exceptionally good news"She said: "We also know nothing yet about the severity of cases that were seen in the trial, whether infection or infectiousness was prevented, or how long the immunity is expected to last."Preventing infectiousness after vaccination and length of immunity will both be vital considerations for the government as it plans for a post-crisis world.

Many organisations are already planning for the predicted surge in misinformation once a vaccine is rolled out.

One of the UK’s leading fact-checking organisations Full Fact said it was preparing for further attempts by anti-vaxxers looking to sow public doubt following the latest coronavirus vaccine breakthrough.

Full Fact editor Tom Phillips said: “I don’t think we’ve seen anything about it just yet but I would imagine that it will not be too long before we start seeing things.

He added that, due to the magnitude of the pandemic, pre-existing conspiracy theories have now been attached to Covid-19.

He said: “I suspect that we will see many of the same claims being ramped up – the claims that this was part of a plot to force a vaccination on the population.”