Coronavirus Vaccine Won't Mean The End Of Face Masks And Social Distancing, Scientist Says

A coronavirus vaccine won't mean the immediate end of face masks and social distancing, a top scientist in the field warned.

As Business Insider reported, Maria Elena Bottazzi, a vaccine developer at Baylor College of Medicine, said that a vaccine won't be the magic bullet people seem to be hoping for.

"[People] automatically are going to say, 'oh great, I'm just going to get my little vaccine, and I can go back and do exactly the things I was doing last year.' That is absolutely not true," she said.

The problem is that immunizations are rarely 100 percent effective against a disease in 100 percent of recipients. So-called "sterilizing immunity" is rare among vaccines; indeed, the second-best-case scenario is that a vaccine will immunize some recipients against it and make others less likely to develop complications from the illness.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, a vaccine currently being developed by drug manufacturer Moderna -- in partnership with the National Institutes of Health -- will be undergoing widespread trials beginning this week, in which at least 30,000 Americans will be test subjects in the third and final phase of the trial.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said that she hopes its medicine -- mRNA-1273 -- will be effective in 60 percent of patients. Only if it gets up to 90 percent effectiveness, Bancel warned, should "most" people be comfortable with ditching masks and social distancing.

a patient and an employee at a nursing home
Getty Images | Sean Gallup

She added that -- even if that lofty goal is reached -- the elderly and other at-risk individuals should still plan on wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.

Looking towards the long term, any vaccine produced to combat the coronavirus will be one of several that are ultimately tried against the pathogen.

"The reality is there's probably going to have to be different generations of vaccines. We can't assume you make Moderna or BioNTech and then say, 'I'm done,'" Bottazzi said.

In fact, the first wave of vaccines may simply show that they reduce the symptoms of disease but don't prevent infection.

Any initial coronavirus vaccine will have been developed over the course of months or just over a year. By comparison, the process of developing and deploying a vaccine usually takes years. For these reasons, though one or more initial vaccines may be developed and distributed as quickly as possible, it could still be years before a final medicine is determined to be the best preventative against COVID-19.

Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle, noted that having any vaccine deployed in the U.S. by the end of 2020 is a "stretch goal."