Although the Prime Minister is known to be an optimist, he was at pains to play down reports of a vaccine breakthrough in Monday's coronavirus press conference. After early findings from stage three of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine trial suggested it could prevent more than 90 per cent of people from getting Covid-19, Johnson warned of the long road ahead. He said that while the search for an effective vaccine had 'cleared one significant hurdle' there are several more to go.
Johnson's caution is in part down to the fact that the Pfizer vaccine trials are not over. More data needs to be published, its safety proved and regulatory approval to be found. Yet despite this, privately there is plenty of optimism in government about today's developments – health officials believe it is a really significant breakthrough that suggests a path back to normality.
The Prime Minister's comments hinted at the other reason he has to urge caution: how people behave as a result of the news. Deputy chief medical officer professor Jonathan Van Tam made the point that this vaccine — even if successful — would not make 'any difference' for the second wave this winter. Johnson added that the biggest mistake now would be 'to slacken our resolve at a critical moment'. While there is fresh hope of an end in sight on coronavirus, Johnson is aware that it remains a long road — one in which he believes social distancing will be with us for months to come.