Top health execs say don’t expect virus vaccine until at least late 2021

Over two-thirds of the world’s most senior executives in the healthcare industry say a Covid-19 vaccine won’t be available until the second half of next year at the earliest.

A survey of nearly 200 C-suite managers by independent investment bank Lazard suggests that a vaccine is still some way off — some 73% of respondents predict a Covid-19 inoculation will come between later next year and the first six months of 2022. And nearly two-thirds, or 64%, said that the pandemic will continue over that period.

“The clear message from healthcare leaders is that we need to prepare for the long haul,” said Dale Raine, co-head of Lazard’s European healthcare group.

The poll dents hopes of a swift recovery from the crisis that has battered the world economy.

The bank also found in the survey, which was conducted between May and June, that 63% of managers said that an effective vaccine was the most important driver of life returning to normal. The lack of a vaccine was the top concern of healthcare execs over Covid-19, with 71% of respondents citing this followed by the impact of the virus on the economy (56%).

While new cases of Covid-19 in the UK have declined in recent weeks, other countries still face an uphill battle. The number of infections in the US hit 3.45m this week, with over 15,000 cases in one day registered in Florida, while Brazil and South Africa have struggled to get a handle on cases of the virus. 

Markets rallied this week on developments in the hunt for a vaccine. A 1,000-person trial by the University of Oxford showed some encouraging results, the Times reported on 16 June, adding that biotech firms Moderna and BioNTech — partnering with Pfizer — have also been working on vaccine candidates.  

In the financial sector, the ongoing impact of the virus has forced firms to keep their employees working from home because of safety concerns. This is despite senior executives including Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon and the head of Citi’s institutional client group, Paco Ybarra, both saying that having employees in the office was preferable longer term. 

While City investment banks have started bringing employees back — both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan have 15% of their London employees back in the office — Ybarra said that 60% of Citi’s employees will remain at home until a vaccine was found. 

Around 60% of healthcare executives surveyed by Lazard said that they expected flexible working arrangements to remain in place, while a third said that “routine public health measures” would increase. 

Banks in Hong Kong have asked a greater proportion of employees to return to the office as Covid-19 cases eased, but fear of a second wave of the virus has prompted some to unwind these plans. BNP Paribas, Citi, HSBC and Standard Chartered have all asked some staff to return home in recent weeks, Bloomberg reported. 

Financial News reported in May that fears of a second wave of the virus in the UK was stopping banks from making wholesale moves back to their London offices.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Paul Clarke