Story at a glance
- The British oncologist said he suspects there’s more immunity than estimated.
- Other experts are less optimistic, stressing a vaccine is the only safe way to build herd immunity.
- WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the proportion of the population with the “tell-tale antibodies” is no more than 20 percent, and in most places, less than 10 percent.
The coronavirus could possibly “burn out naturally” before any vaccine becomes widely available, according to the former director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Cancer Programme.
“There is a real chance that the virus will burn out naturally before any vaccine is developed,” Professor Karol Sikora said in a tweet Saturday.
“We are seeing a roughly similar pattern everywhere – I suspect we have more immunity than estimated. We need to keep slowing the virus, but it could be petering out by itself,” he said. “We need to continue to keep our distance and hope the numbers continue to improve.”
There is a real chance that the virus will burn out naturally before any vaccine is developed.
We are seeing a roughly similar pattern everywhere – I suspect we have more immunity than estimated.
We need to keep slowing the virus, but it could be petering out by itself.
— Professor Karol Sikora (@ProfKarolSikora) May 16, 2020
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While the former WHO official suspects the world is more immune than estimates suggest, other experts are less optimistic and have emphasized that a widely distributed vaccine is the only safe way to build herd immunity to the coronavirus and control the outbreak.
“Early serology studies are painting a consistent picture: even in the worst-affected regions, the proportion of the population with the tell-tale antibodies is no more than 20 percent, and in most places, less than 10 percent,” current WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday during the World Health Assembly.
“In other words: The majority of the world’s population remains susceptible to this virus. The risk remains high and we have a long road to travel.”
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In terms of vaccine development, biotech company Moderna on Monday reported positive data on its potential coronavirus vaccine from an early clinical trial. The company said early data from a phase one clinical trial showed people given the potential vaccine generated an immune response similar to that in people who recovered from COVID-19.
The Trump administration is aiming to make the first doses of a vaccine available late this year at the very earliest, a timeline that has been criticized by health experts as overly optimistic.
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