Covid-19: Don’t count on vaccine, US scientist warns

A top US scientist has said that people should not count on a Covid-19 vaccine being developed any time soon, as global infections passed 5 million after surges in Latin America, including Brazil, which has recorded nearly 20,000 new cases.

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William Haseltine, the groundbreaking cancer, HIV/AIDS and human genome projects researcher, has said the best approach to the pandemic is to manage the disease through careful tracing of infections and strict isolation measures whenever it starts spreading.

He said that while a vaccine could be developed, “I wouldn’t count on it”, and urged people to wear masks, wash hands, clean surfaces and keep a distance.

“Do not listen to the politicians who say we’re going to have one by the time my re election comes around,” he said. “Maybe we will (but) I’m just saying it’s not a slam-dunk case by any means … because every time people have tried to make a vaccine – for Sars or Mers – it hasn’t actually protected.”

The Guardian UK reports that Vaccines developed previously for other types of coronavirus had failed to protect mucous membranes in the nose where the virus typically enters the body, he said.

The United States and other countries has not done enough to “forcibly isolate” people exposed to the virus, Haseltine said, but praised China, South Korea and Taiwan’s efforts to curb infections.

Haseltine said the US, Russia and Brazil – which rank first, second and third for infections – have done the worst.

As global infections passed 5 million, Brazil reported a record 19,951 cases on Wednesday, according to the ministry of health, taking total infections to 291,579. If the trend continues, the country would shortly overtake Russia’s cases (308,705).

Brazil’s health ministry, meanwhile issued new guidelines for the wider use of anti-malarial drugs in mild coronavirus cases, a treatment touted by President Jair Bolsonaro in defiance of public health experts warning of possible health risks.

The interim health minister, Eduardo Pazuello, an army general, authorised the use after two doctors left the ministry’s top job under pressure to promote early use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

The new guidelines suggest dosage for the anti-malarials along with the antibiotic azithromycin at the onset of symptoms. Patients or family members will have to sign a waiver recognising potential side effects.Advertisement

President Trump has said his hydroxycholoquine regimen, which goes against the advice of the US Food and Drug Administration, would end in two days. Trump also said if New York and New Jersey were not included in the US Covid-19 numbers, the country would be “just about in a class by ourselves”. He strongly criticised China’s reported coronavirus figures, saying: “they gave numbers that were so low … I saw more problem on television than they were reporting, just by looking at a picture.”

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