Header Ads

Breaking News

coronavirus cases to rise, Asia lessons on control

Kim Hjelmgaard, a London-based world-affairs correspondent for USA TODAY, interviewed Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, as part of ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is a lightly edited transcript of that interview.

When will there be a vaccine?

We are flat out on this. But everyone needs to recognize that even flat out for a vaccine means we’re a year to a year-and-a-half away. And that would be breaking the record by a factor of three or so given how long it usually takes to get something fully ready to be distributed to the public. Two days ago (March 16), the first volunteers were injected with a vaccine that is a collaboration between the NIH research center and a company called Moderna. There are 45 volunteers in Washington state and this will be our opportunity to find out whether it generates any good and safe responses. Depending on how that goes, and if it’s remarkably positive also provides efficacy, it will move on to a phase 2 trial with larger numbers. Following that, but not until the fall, you’d expect to see a phase 3 trial, and possibly an opportunity to scale this up because if it works we may need hundreds of millions of doses. But it would need at least a year for wide deployment, which is why people should not be waiting to take actions that will help minimize the impact of this growing pandemic. (Editor’s note: Scientists, companies and governments around the world are racing to develop and test other vaccines.)   

Race is on:Scientists in all-out global effort to find a vaccine for coronavirus

Francis Collins is the director of the National Institutes of Health.

Can the U.S. ‘flatten its curve’ – slow down the spread of coronavirus –  as places in Asia have?

China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan – we can take very significant lessons from these places. Anyone who looks at the experiences in Asia will see highly activated systems to avoid further transmission by having people shelter in place, avoid interactions, hand washing and all the other things that we know make a difference (easy access to testing and tracing). That lesson should apply to any circumstance where this virus is spreading. It may be that a country like China has a more top-down ability to insist on certain sets of behavior changes. But we ought to be able to do it in our way, in a bottom-up fashion. Americans are smart. They now have some data they can look at it to know how important this is. We just have to get together and say, as a people, this is so important for saving what may otherwise be a million lives lost.

USA TODAY analysis:America’s coronavirus ‘curve’ may be at most dangerous point

Can the U.S. avoid the dire Italy-like situation?

Coronavirus deaths in Italy illustrated by increasing obituaries

We should be able to blunt it. But let’s be clear: There’s going to be a very rough road in the weeks and months ahead of us. They are trying to manage the situation and make awful decisions about who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t. God help us if this happens more broadly across the world and we certainly hope that it doesn’t happen here. When you make a decision about one of these measures, such as social distancing, and it’s front of mind for everybody, don’t expect that you can see an immediate consequence. Right now, in the U.S., we supposedly have 6,500 cases (as of March 16). That’s got to be a vast underestimate because we have not been able to sample all the people who may be infected or who have no symptoms at all. Some of these people are already destined to become very sick. If we did everything right today, you would still see the numbers going up over the next two weeks because of what’s out there already. We can’t change that. But, what we might be able to do is change what’s going to happen three or four weeks from now. That’s our challenge. When you’re on an exponential curve every moment is dangerous. This is a particularly critical moment for us to try to bring all the resources and determination of government and the American people to try to get off of it.

Grim milestone:Italy’s coronavirus deaths surpass China’s

How concerned are you about a second wave of infections when restrictions are lifted?

Source link

No comments