OXFORD experts are divided on how optimistic to be about a breakthrough in finding a vaccine for coronavirus.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Government’s vaccine taskforce, said he believed the Pfizer vaccine findings meant there was a '70 to 80 per cent chance' the most vulnerable among the population could be vaccinated by Easter.

The pharmaceutical giant and its partner BioNTech said interim results showed their jab could prevent people developing Covid-19.

He told a joint session of the Commons health and social care committee and science and technology committee today it was a ‘massive step forward’.

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He added: "It also signals, I think, that many of the other vaccines that have the same immunogenicity are likely also to be efficacious.

"So I wouldn’t be surprised if we hit the new year with two or three vaccines, all of which could be distributed.

“And that’s why I’m quite optimistic of getting enough vaccinations done in the first quarter of next year that by spring things will start to look much more normal than they do now.”

Oxford University’s Professor Melinda Mills, however, warned expectation management was crucial and there was an urgent need ‘to clarify that life will not immediately return to normal’ and non-pharmaceutical interventions will be needed during a transition period.

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Professor Mills, in a rapid review report published by the British Academy and the Royal Society for the Science in Emergencies Tasking: COVID-19 group, said good communication was essential to build public support for a vaccine and beat an ‘infodemic’ of misinformation.

She said: "There needs to be a frank conversation with the public about just how long it will take and that things will not immediately go back to normal when vaccines arrive.

"We need to move away from the one-way provision of information and generate an open dialogue that addresses misinformation and does not dismiss people’s real vaccine concerns and hesitancy.

"And, critically, when the time comes, we need to make vaccination itself convenient.”

She added: "Misinformation is driven by five key factors: distrust of science and selective use of expert authority, distrust in pharmaceutical companies and government, simplistic explanations, use of emotion and anecdotes to impact rational decision-making; and development of information bubbles and echo chambers.”

She said accurate, reliable information, rather than ‘taking on’ the conspiracies, was essential, and it was important to address the need for information, rather than ‘becoming embroiled in refuting groundless internet theories’.