We start a discussion with a public health scientist in the United States.
As the world grapples with a public health crisis of an unprecedented scale in the 21st century, scientists across the globe are working day and night to develop a vaccine.
As of now, there are around 70 research groups worldwide, working on over 100 potential vaccines in different stages of development. This week, the first results of human trials by U.S.-based Moderna Therapeutics' offered a glimmer of hope. Out of the 45 volunteers in the study, eight were found to have produced key antibodies that work against the virus. The news has been encouraging but most members of the scientific community have cautioned that the development should be taken with a grain of salt, and maintain that a vaccine is likely to take much longer than a few months to hit the market.
To discuss the progress made so far in developing a vaccine for COVID-19, we connect with Dr. Eric Ding, a Visiting Scientist at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.
Let's start with Moderna's results. It seems scientists have welcomed the news but remain on the fence until there are more details provided about the test. Do you agree there's insufficient information?
What do you think is the most crucial information missing from the test?
- Another question is that Moderna didn’t answer was whether or not their vaccine generated a T-Cell response.
- How would an mRNA vaccine that they're developing work against COVID-19?
- How durable and long-lasting would the neutralizing antibodies have to be to make sure it works?
Some say it's seems too much of a coincidence that Moderna's former executive was appointed to lead America's vaccine project. What do you think about this?
The University of Oxford's vaccine was able to stimulate an immune response but couldn't prevent transmission. Why is it difficult to achieve both?
There's also the fear that a vaccine could do more harm than good. What are the complications scientists are trying to avoid during the development process?
When do you think a vaccine will be on the market?
Some doctors and patients say remdesivir has been effective in treating COVID-19. Is it possible that drugs like these could be repurposed or adapted before a vaccine comes out?
It seems the absence of effective treatments as well as the hurdles to developing a vaccine demonstrates a failure of government policy and bureaucracy in every country. How should government policies and regulations change to provide consistent support for scientists?
In the meantime, with a second wave on the way, what should people without immunity do to ensure their bodies are in tip-top condition?
We'll have to wrap up our discussion here but we really appreciate your insights and your efforts to raise the level of public awareness on the facts we need to know.
Dr. Eric Ding, epidemiologist and health economist at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health -- thank you for joining the program.
(New York, U.S.)