The pandemic of Covid-19 will end with an effective and safe vaccine along with public health measures, a world renowned researcher told the virtual World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2020 Wednesday.
“It will take a year or two. You have got to roll out the vaccine together with public health measures until the overall umbrella of protection essentially is all over the world,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, US.
A member of the White House coronavirus task force, and also a world-renowned HIV/AIDS researcher, Dr Fauci was in conversation with Fiona Godlee, editor in chief, The BMJ, at virtual WISH 2020.
According to the expert, asymptomatic infection should not be ignored as it leads to community spread of the disease. “We cannot ignore asymptomatic infection because that is a major component of the outbreak. And that is the reason we saw community spread and the insidious thing is it becomes difficult to do identification, isolation, and contact tracing.”
In comparing the Covid-19 pandemic to the HIV/AIDs epidemic outbreak in the 1980s, he said, “Whenever you have pressure, you've got to make sure you act in a very measured way based on evidence and science, but at the same time being sensitive to the needs of people. There are certain things about science that need to be immutable.”
Discussing the reasons why the Covid-19 pandemic has reached current proportions in the US, Dr Fauci said, “The US is a very large country, and heterogeneous in so many ways; demographically, geographically, but particularly in the level of infection that we have in different places. It's a federalist society where an awful lot of responsibility can and is given to the states. What we had was not a uniform approach when we had the shutdown.
“When we decided to open up the economy, some states did it in a way that was not appropriate … jumping over stage one or disregarding it completely,” he said. “We have done well in some respects, but it is patchy and not uniformly well as a country… I think the lesson for countries like the UK is to try and have a unified approach that's centrally mandated.”
Turning to the vaccine, he said, “A lot of things are politicised but I think people across the world and in the US should realise that there are a lot of failsafe checks. We have assurances from the FDA commissioner that science itself and not political considerations will dictate the decisions about the regulatory components of the vaccine trial.”
Dr Fauci also addressed racial disparities in health. “It’s a very unfortunate situation not only with Covid-19 but with other diseases. African Americans are about 13% of the US population but account for over 40-45% of new cases. This population is also doubly hit. The jobs they do as a broad demographic group puts them on the front line of interacting with people, so they have a greater chance to get infected to begin with. It is also clear that African Americans have a disparately larger percentage of the underlying conditions that lead to a serious outcome, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity.”
Commenting on ‘long Covid’, he said, “We're starting to see emerging information. That's why we need to take this disease with a degree of humility and commit to preventing infection, through universal wearing of masks, avoiding crowds, distance, outdoor-better-than-indoor, washing hands, and doing everything we can to get a vaccine because it is not to be taken in a trivial way at all.”