Dozens of vaccines are in trials across the world, and Oxford University appears to be the furthest ahead. Final phase three human trials are in progress, and results may be available by next month.

The new report estimates that at least 70 per cent of the population would need to be vaccinated for herd immunity, if the vaccine is 100 per cent effective, but that may need to be higher if the jab is less potent. It is also likely that an annual vaccination programme will be needed to keep on top of the virus.

Co-author Prof Charles Bangham, the co-director of the Institute of Infection at Imperial College London, said: “Due process is important, and even when it becomes available it will take some time to manufacture the necessary number of doses and even if effective it’s unlikely we will be able to get back to normal even with the vaccine. 

“It will be a sliding scale. We will have to gradually relax some of the other interventions. Even when we have an effective vaccine, it is not likely the virus will go away – it’s not going to end the infection completely. 

“It’s reasonable to expect it would give immunity that would last more than one year, so it maybe the immune response dwindles within two years and it will be necessary to accent, just as we do with influenza, especially within high-risk groups.”

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