Coronavirus will be present “forever in some form or another”, a member of the United Kingdom’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said.
Sir Mark Walport said people would need to be vaccinated at regular intervals.
His comments come after the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said he hoped the pandemic would be over within two years, as the Spanish flu had taken two years to overcome.
Sir Mark said denser populations and travel meant the virus spread easily.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme, Sir Mark said that, in order to control the pandemic, “global vaccination” would be required, but coronavirus would not be a disease like smallpox “which could be eradicated by vaccination”.
“This is a virus that is going to be with us forever in some form or another, and almost certainly will require repeated vaccinations,” he said.
“So, a bit like flu, people will need re-vaccination at regular intervals.”
Sir Mark warned that it was “possible” coronavirus would get “out of control” again, but said more targeted measures could now be used instead of a generic lockdown.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, has said that the Spanish flu of 1918 took two years to overcome, and that advances in technology could allow the world to halt coronavirus “in a shorter time”.
The flu of 1918 killed at least 50 million people.
So far, coronavirus has killed nearly 800,000 people and infected almost 23 million.