Over 73,000 people have died of coronavirus and more than 1.2 million are infected in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Vaccines to prevent coronavirus infections are racing through development at unprecedented speeds. But scientists won’t know if the vaccines can prevent infection until April or May next year, said Dr. Mark Mulligan, director of the Vaccine Center at New York University’s Langone Health.
The first phrase of the trial will determine if it is safe, he said, which typically takes three to four months.
“That’s actually the most important first question and then we want to know if it’s tolerated well and if it produces an antibody response that might be protective after those first three or four months,” Mulligan said.
“You go onto the question does it protect, and that’ll take several months as well,” he added. “I do really think we’re talking about getting through to the end of the year and into early next year before we would have a definitive answer.”
President Donald Trump had said one would be available by December, then appeared to back off his claim this week.
There are more than 100 vaccines under development all over the world, according to the World Health Organization. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has said it’s possible to have a coronavirus vaccine by January.
Meanwhile, an expert warned that life will look different for the next 12 to 18 months as we wait for a vaccine.
“I don’t think we’re all going to have to stay home for 12 to 18 months,” said epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I think there will be a period where we are able to shift from everyone having to stay home to slow the spread, into these case based interventions.”
That means contact tracing and isolation and quarantine of people who could spread the virus.
No state has met the guidance on reopening
More than 40 states are partially reopening and lifting stay-at-home restrictions. But none of them have met the White House’s guidelines on reopening, Rivers said.
Rivers described the four criteria at a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday:
“The first is to see the number of new cases decline for at least two weeks, and some states have met that criteria. But there are three other criteria and we suggest they should all be met,” Rivers said.
They include having enough resources to conduct contact tracing on new cases, enough diagnostic testing to test everybody with Covid-like symptoms and “enough health care system capacity to treat everyone safely.”
But the US hasn’t done enough to protect people from the coronavirus pandemic, said Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It must overcome major obstacles to help prevent a resurgence of coronavirus, he said.
“We don’t have the testing capacity now to know where this disease is,” Besser said. “We have not scaled up the thousands and thousands of contact tracers that we need, we don’t provide safe places for people to isolate or quarantine.”
It will take weeks to learn how many new cases and deaths emerge after states start easing restrictions.
Blood thinners could help save patients’ lives
As experts work to discover what treatment options may exist, a new study finds blood thinners could play a crucial role in treating seriously ill coronavirus patients.
Some patients hospitalized with coronavirus develop blood clots throughout the body, complicating treatment. The findings from a team at Mount Sinai Hospital could help with the problem that has shocked health care workers treating those affected by the virus.
The team is running experiments to see which anticoagulants work best, and at which doses. “The patients who received anticoagulants did better than those who didn’t,” said Dr. Valentin Fuster, physician-in-chief of The Mount Sinai Hospital.
“This has implications already. People, I believe, should treat these patients with antithrombotics,” he added.
The findings are not clear enough yet to make solid recommendations. The team noted that patients who were already severely ill were more likely to be given the blood thinners.
Pentagon’s considering a ban on survivors
For those who contract Covid-19, the recovery process can be long and arduous, with reports of shortness of breath and other complications weeks after testing negative.
Due to little understanding of the virus’s longterm effects, a defense official said, the Pentagon is considering guidance banning new military recruits who have been hospitalized for Covid-19.
There’s concern potential recruits who have been hospitalized may need further medical assessments, the official said, but the policy would not apply for those who obtain a waiver.
Department of Defense medical waivers are required for various medical conditions, including heart disease and loss of vision. The fact that sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt are still testing positive weeks after the coronavirus outbreak on the ship is underlining the need to solve the medical mystery of why some people carry the virus but have no symptoms and may continue to test negative, Navy officials said.
With the military living and operating in close quarters, with sailors on ships at sea for months, testing and understating of the virus is a priority to ensure units can deploy safely.