Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases for three decades and an expert on pandemics for four decades, was optimistic that a vaccine would arrive in late 2020 or early 2021 but has warned the public of their expectations for effectiveness of a developed vaccine.
"The odds it is 98% aren't great, which means you must never give up on the public health approach," Fauci said in a recent live streaming Q&A from Brown University. "You have to think of a vaccine as a tool to stop making a pandemic a pandemic, but rather to be something that is well controlled."
"What I'm aiming for is that with a vaccine and good public health measures, we can get a value between really good control and elimination," he told Abdullah Shihipar, a public health officer for Brown in the US interview. "So this is what a vaccine will do, but it won't do it alone."
“The chances that it's 98% aren't great. That said, you must never give up the public health approach. "
Fauci said he was confident that a coronavirus vaccine could be developed by early 2021, but previously said it was unlikely that a vaccine would offer 100% immunity. He said the best realistic result, based on other vaccines, would be 70% to 75% effectiveness. The measles vaccine, he said, is among the most effective with 97% immunity.
Reviews of previous studies have found that the flu vaccine is on average 50% to 60% effective in healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 64, according to a review of the Mayo Clinic studies. "The vaccine can sometimes be less effective," it said. "Even if the vaccine doesn't completely prevent the flu, it can make your illness less severe."
Fauci advocates face masks, social distancing, and avoiding bars and indoor crowds. "If we do these things – and I'll repeat until I'm exhausted – these things will work," he said on Friday's live stream. "If you have something that everyone has to pull at the same time, and if you have a weak link that doesn't, you can't get to the endgame."
Stephen Hahn, Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, said last month that the agency would give the go-ahead for a coronavirus vaccine as long as it is 50% effective. "We all want a vaccine tomorrow, that's unrealistic, and we all want a vaccine that is 100% effective and again unrealistic." We said 50%. Hahn added, "That was reasonable ground given the pandemic."
As of Sunday, COVID-19 had infected at least 19.7 million people worldwide and approximately 5 million in the United States. It has killed 727,579 people worldwide and 162,430 people on the US Dow Jones Industrial Index
and S&P 500
ended higher on Friday as investors waited for the second round of fiscal stimulus; the Nasdaq Composite
Connected: Do you feel careless about masks? Think again So many lives could be saved if everyone wore a mask – starting today
In the absence of a vaccine, health experts say social distancing and masks are the only alternatives because "herd immunity" – the one in which those who are immune protect the most vulnerable in the population – are impractical for coronavirus. This requires a very high level of population immunity against COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and so that the virus does not mutate.
"None of these appear to be operational right now," Gregory Poland, who studies immunogenetics of vaccines at the Mayo Clinic, told MarketWatch in April. “With influenza, you need herd immunity of 60% to 70%. For measles you need about 95%. It's somewhere in the middle with COVID-19, ”he said.
"What we saw during the pandemic are a lot of preprints and press releases," Hahn said in a separate interview with the medical journal JAMA. "We can't make a decision based on a preprint or press release, and that's because we insist on seeing all the clinical trial data." Traditionally, such research goes through a peer-reviewed review process prior to publication.
“With influenza, you need herd immunity of 60% to 70%. For measles you need about 95%. With COVID-19, it's somewhere in the middle. "
In the meantime, the public should continue to wear masks, authorities say. America's COVID-19 death toll in the US could reach nearly 300,000 by December 1, but wearing masks consistently starting today could, according to projections released last week by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, about 70,000 lives are saved by the Medical School.
“It seems that as the infections increase, people wear masks more often and distance themselves socially. After a while, when the infections go down, people decrease their vigilance and stop taking these measures to protect themselves and others, which of course leads to more infections. HME Director Christopher Murray said, "and the potentially fatal cycle will start over."
In April – after two months of masking the effectiveness of face masks that made New York City the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, and a month after the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic – the US federal authorities did a U-turn, saying all Americans should eventually wear face covering in public facilities and be aware of asymptomatic wearers.
How contagious is someone who has been infected with COVID-19 and still shows no symptoms? This study, published this week in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, provides a theory for the first question. It isolated 303 patients with COVID-19 at a treatment center in South Korea. Of these, 110 (36%) were asymptomatic and 21 (19%) developed symptoms during isolation.
What they found: "Many people with SARS-CoV-2 infection remained asymptomatic for a long period of time, and the viral load was similar to that of symptomatic patients," the scientists concluded. "Hence, the isolation of infected individuals should be done regardless of symptoms." The researchers analyzed swabs taken from the group between March 6 and March 26.