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People need to accept COVID-19 is not going away: Lancet editor-in-chief

UK: A vaccine for COVID-19 will not be available this year and it is very important for people to know how to live with the virus because many things that are taken for granted are changing now, said the editor-in-chief of the UK-based medical journal The Lancet, the world's most influential medical journal.

Richard Horton made the remarks on Friday during a virtual exclusive interview with the China Global Television Network (CGTN) in response to the world's performance against the pandemic.When he was asked whether there is going to be a second wave of deeper research into why the antibodies peter out after a period of time, Horton said what is known about the virus is limited, but he is confident that the coronavirus vaccine will model those used for influenza.

"The honest truth is to remember we didn't know this virus existed six months ago. So there's a lot that we are learning today about the virus, including how the body responds to it and develops an immune response to it. But think about influenza, we have got quite used to taking a vaccine every year for influenza because there's a different strain that comes through every year. It might mean it's possible that if the immunity doesn't last very long, but we might have to have an annual vaccine for this coronavirus. But at the moment we really don't know, the most important thing is to understand the immune response to get these vaccine candidates into clinical trials. And although it's a gamble because there's a lot we don't know, I remain confident that over the next 12 months there will be candidates that will emerge, that will be able to be produced for clinical use," he said.

He acknowledged it might be impossible to see vaccines within the year and co-existing with the virus is a must. He stressed that some normal actions in people's daily lives will have to change accordingly.

"We're not going to have a vaccine this year. Let's be clear. We will not have a vaccine for clinical use this year. And that means that the virus will be in our communities. We have to live with the virus for the time being. That means that we have to manage our own risk; governments can't do it all. We can't live in lockdown permanently; otherwise, our economies and livelihoods will just disappear. So that means that we have to take responsibility for protecting ourselves. And I think that's the biggest challenge actually that societies are facing, to accept we have to live with the virus and we have to change our behaviors. All the things that we took for granted, whether it was going to the office, taking public transport, going out to a restaurant or going to a bar or going for a coffee, these things that we took for granted are changing right now. And that is a radical challenge for us," Horton said.

When it comes to joint efforts across the globe to research and develop a vaccine, he said it is high time for the whole world to join hands and make a plan for vaccine distribution.

"I mean one of my disappointments during the past six months is that no time have countries been brought together to discuss the global response to the pandemic and how we're going to move forward with treatments or with a vaccine. So I think it's a matter of urgency that the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, brings countries together at an emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly to have all 195 member states of the United Nations come together to talk about the global response and to address exactly the issue that you're raising, which is how we can have a fair distribution of the vaccine," he said.

Horton also stressed that the first batch of vaccines need to be given to those most at risk, such as medical workers and people working in public transportation and shops.

"The vaccine, when it first becomes available, needs to be distributed to those people most at risk, and that means people on the frontline of the pandemic. That's not people like me, it means people who are actually on the frontlines, people who are health workers, people who are working in shops with the public, people who are working on public transport, all those who are right on the frontline of our society. But that needs to be an agreement between countries, a convention between countries. And the only way that can happen is through countries coming together to agree," he added.

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