Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, speaking Sunday, December 5, at the 44th Richard Dimbleby Lecture, said there needs to be more funding for pandemic preparedness against future pandemics.
Dame Sarah added that people should be cautious until more is known about the Omicron variant warning that vaccines could be less effective against it.
She said: “This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods. The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both.
“We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through, and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness,” she added.
“The advances we have made, and the knowledge we have gained, must not be lost.”
Speaking about the Omicron variant, she said its spike protein contained mutations known to increase the transmissibility of the virus.
“But there are additional changes that may mean antibodies induced by the vaccines, or by infection with other variants, may be less effective at preventing infection with Omicron.
“Until we know more, we should be cautious, and take steps to slow down the spread of this new variant.”
However, Dame Sarah said reduced protection against infection and mild disease would not necessarily mean reduced protection against severe illness and death.
She also urged for the rapid progress seen in delivering vaccines and medicines during the pandemic to become the norm and vaccines should be created for Influenza, HIV and Malaria.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is now the most widely used around the world, with doses sent to more than 170 countries.