The health secretary has said he does not think a future COVID-19 vaccine would need to be made compulsory.
At Downing Street’s daily coronavirus news briefing, Matt Hancock said: “I think the extent of the public’s reaction following the lockdown shows we will be able to achieve very, very high levels of vaccination without taking that step.”
A number of versions of a potential COVID-19 vaccine are being researched worldwide, with more than 600 people taking part in an Oxford University trial.
And at a video conference summit hosted by the European Union, a group of world leaders, organisations and banks joined to together to pledged 7.4bn euros to hunt for a vaccine. The US and Russia were among those who did not take part.
What’s the timescale for a COVID-19 vaccine?
Mr Hancock said: “We are proceeding on the basis that just such a huge proportion of the population are going to take this up because of the obvious benefits to individuals and their families and their communities and indeed the whole nation, that there will be enormous demand for it as and when the science is safe to proceed.”
He added that ministers were not ruling anything out, but were proceeding on the basis there would be enormous uptake due to the “obvious benefits” of a vaccine.
Speaking at the same briefing, England’s deputy chief medical officer said a vaccine would likely be available to adults before children.
Mr Hancock, meanwhile, also warned there was no guarantee a vaccine would be found.
“We can’t assume there will be a vaccine,” he said. “There is no coronavirus vaccine yet for any of the existing coronaviruses and this is uncertain science.”
The search for a COVID-19 vaccine
Mr Hancock was asked about the prospect of compulsory vaccinations, having previously said – before the coronavirus outbreak – there was a “very strong” case for making it compulsory for children to be vaccinated.
Asked at Monday’s news conference what his message would be to people who are against vaccinations, the health secretary replied: “I think there has been no greater demonstration in modern history that vaccines save lives than the need for a vaccine to save lives and to get the world going again following the outbreak of COVID-19.
“We will only license a vaccine when it is both effective and safe.”
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said children appear to be less affected by the coronavirus.
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Prof Van-Tam said: “We are following the developments in vaccine research across the world, including in the UK.
“We remain very hopeful that there will be a breakthrough at some point in the future.
“I think what I can say to you is that it is more likely than not that the first vaccines will be licensed in adults in the first instance.
“So far the epidemiological evidence is not showing us that there is a massive burden of disease or burden of mortality in children, it is actually completely at the other end of the scale, it is in the elderly.”
Health secretary outlines how new app will work
Mr Hancock used Monday’s briefing to launch a trial of the NHS contact tracing app which the government hopes will allow it to keep the future spread of COVID-19 under control.
The app will be tested on the Isle of Wight first and could be rolled out across the UK in the weeks to come if the trial proves successful.
On Wednesday, Kay Burley will be hosting a live Q&A with Health Secretary Matt Hancock. You can put your questions to Mr Hancock about the coronavirus and its impact on your life live on Sky News.
Email us your questions – or you can record a video clip of your question on your phone – and send it to AskTheHealthSecretary@sky.uk