THE first coronavirus jabs are "likely to be imperfect" and "might not work for everyone", the chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce has said.
Kate Bingham said the roll-out of the earliest Covid-19 shots could start before Christmas, but warned their effectiveness may be limited.
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Writing in The Lancet medical journal, she said that no vaccine in the history of medicine "has been as eagerly anticipated" as this one.
"Vaccination is widely regarded as the only true exit strategy from the pandemic that is currently spreading globally," she added.
However, she cautioned that "we do not know that we will ever have a vaccine at all".
Ms Bingham added: "The first generation of vaccines is likely to be imperfect, and we should be prepared that they might not prevent infection but rather reduce symptoms and, even then, might not work for everyone or for long."
So far, there remains no clinically proven vaccine against coronavirus, which has killed more than 45,000 Brits.
However, there are nearly 200 vaccine candidates in development worldwide and late-stage trial results are expected by the end of the year.
Britain has agreed supply deals for six candidates including frontrunners from AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
Speaking to the BBC today, Ms Bingham said: "If the first two vaccines, or either of them, show that they are both safe and effective, I think there is a possibility that vaccine rollout will start this side of Christmas.
"Otherwise I think it's more realistic to expect it to be early next year."
In her opinion piece, published overnight, she warned that all candidate vaccines could in theory fail.
I think there is a possibility that vaccine rollout will start this side of Christmas
She added that the "strategy has been to build a diverse portfolio across different formats to give the UK the greatest chance of providing a safe and effective vaccine, recognising that many, and possibly all, of these vaccines could fail".
Other independent experts agreed that over-reliance on vaccines was unwise.
Chris Butler, a primary care professor at Oxford University, said: "It's unlikely that we'll find a perfect vaccination that will protect everybody 100 per cent.
"(Some) people will still be getting this acute illness, (so) finding treatments … will continue to be important."
'TOO EARLY TO SAY'
Environment secretary George Eustice said that a vaccine would be the answer to the Covid-19 crisis, but that Ms Bingham's Lancet analysis was "probably right."
Speaking to Sky News' Kay Burley today, he said: "A vaccine will be the answer at some point but it is too early to say precisely when that vaccine will come.
"I know there's some hope there might be something as quickly as Christmas but that's not by any means a certainty.
"And it's also the case, it always is with a vaccine, you don't know precisely what level of protection it will deliver. Some of them deliver full protection, some don't."
Ms Bingham also cautioned that the global manufacturing capacity for vaccines was vastly inadequate for the billions of doses that were needed, and that Britain's manufacturing capability to date had been "equally scarce".
It comes as the Government's former chief scientific adviser warned that 25,000 people could be in hospital with Covid by the end of next month.
Professor Sir Mark Walport suggested the death toll will continue to increase as there are "still very many people that are vulnerable" and relatively few people have had the virus.
And Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling prompted the UK-wide lockdown in March, warned that restrictions in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas of England are "unlikely to cause daily cases and deaths to fall rapidly".
He said modelling suggests this could leave the country with "high levels" of Covid cases, demand on health care and deaths "until spring 2021".
Their warnings came amid fears the second wave of Covid-19 could be more deadly than the first.
A projection by Government scientists suggests the toll could remain high throughout the winter and result in more fatalities than in the spring, which have now topped 61,000.
Downing Street did not dismiss the analysis provided by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), seen by The Telegraph.
The paper said it had led to intense lobbying from experts, including chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Valance, to take more drastic action.
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