A VACCINE may not be possible for the coronavirus, according to Scotland’s national clinical director.

Professor Jason Leitch gave the warning as he took questions from journalists at yesterday’s Scottish Government briefing on the pandemic. He said it may be the case that people instead will have to rely on an effective treatment being discovered, that people become immune to the virus or that it is suppressed to very low levels.

However, the warning came on the day was announced yesterday that Glasgow University and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will support phase three of the Covid-19 vaccine trials.

Leitch said: “We don’t know what the science is going to do. I can give some hope, there are more than 200 vaccine trials in the world today. Three of them ... have gone to phase two and one of them is heading to phase three which is human trials. They will probably fail those ones as early ones often do, but that would suggest to me that the science, the collaboration around the world is working well.

“And if a vaccine is possible – remember, we even don’t even know that – if a vaccine is possible, it will come just as quickly as it can, probably quicker than any other vaccine in history.”

Leitch went on: “Treatment gives me slightly more hope, there are so many treatment trials going on around the world just now that I think something in there might help us. I don’t think it will be anything we can just yet talk about because most of them are failing, but in the end I think we will get somewhere.”

He went on to say antibody trials were also taking place around the world which are beginning to show levels of antibodies in the blood, and that over time it may be known whether some people became immune.

“The fourth hope is that we will suppress the virus to such a low level that we will be able to give advice that says tracing outbreaks and stopping those outbreaks is enough to advise the decision-makers to do things differently,” Leitch said.

“We do that with other diseases just now. We don’t have a vaccine for Ebola but we don’t limit Scotland’s freedoms because of Ebola. It is such a low level in the world that we can carry on as if it weren’t there.”

Meanwhile, it was announced that, in collaboration with Oxford University’s trials, 250 health and care staff living in Greater Glasgow and Clyde will be invited to take part in phase three of the Covid-19 vaccine trials.

Participants need to be between 18 and 55 years old, healthy, and not infected at any point with Covid-19. Frontline health, dental and care staff as well as non-clinical staff are encouraged to apply.

The group will be given either one or two doses of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine or a licensed meningitis vaccine (MenACWY) which will be used as a control for comparison. Screening and vaccination of participants will begin in the next two weeks, with the human trial lasting a year.

Emma Thomson, professor of infectious diseases at the MRC-University of Glasgow, said: “The University of Glasgow is extremely proud to be leading the phase two/three part of the University of Oxford vaccine trial in Glasgow in partnership with the NHS.

“An effective vaccine would be an important step forward in controlling the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic on a global scale.

“We will be working closely with colleagues at Oxford University to determine if the ChAdOx1 vaccine protects those who receive it from infection in a phase three clinical trial, following successful smaller phase one and two trials in Oxford.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said she was delighted Scotland was taking part in the trials, adding the country “has a long established reputation for medical research”.