How the Coronavirus pandemic will end

  1. The conviction that we can actually do this.
  2. Overinvestment in the tools we need. So far, we have consistently underestimated the need for vaccines, testing, equipment, and personnel. For example, Biden’s intention of providing 500 million tests is a drop in the bucket of what will actually be needed. As another example, we have already had time to upscale vaccine manufacturing to produce enough vaccine for the population of the world, but it still is not being implemented. Time and again, we have seen that trying to play catch-up is frustrating and ineffective.
  3. Investment by rich governments and individuals.
  4. International cooperation. Politics that interfere with the eradication efforts may have devastating consequences. We have seen this time and again in the efforts to eradicate polio.
  5. Laws that require vaccination without provisions for religious or personal exemptions. These freedoms would be laudable if the virus respected such notions, if the virus was not highly contagious, and if other vaccinated individuals did not have to put themselves at risk and foot the bill for the unvaccinated. Such vaccine laws work. We have many current and historical examples. One excellent example is the California law that requires school children to be vaccinated for measles. There are also many examples that show that rewards such as lotteries do not work.
  6. Programs that make it very easy for everyone to get vaccinated — including compensation for the time required to get vaccinated including recovery from vaccination side effects.
  7. Development of multivalent and updated vaccines. mRNA vaccines provide the technology to rapidly tailor the vaccines to emerging strains. Given this ability to rapidly pivot, it is astonishing that we are still using the original vaccines. Clinical trials to test these vaccines should be continuously ongoing. Sign me up immediately.
  8. Expeditious completion of well-designed clinical trials verifying the safety and efficacy of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines for children of all ages. Assessment of the benefits of these pediatric vaccines should include psychological benefits and benefits to society in curtailing the pandemic.
  9. Enhanced support of efforts to develop additional vaccines including vaccines that do not require injections.
  10. Widespread testing regimes including rapid tests, and sewage surveillance which can serve as an advanced indication of a coming surge.
  11. Buy in by local and national leaders.
  12. Additional factors that will help now and in the future include modifications to the licensing system and to the patent compensation system. These can be implemented without compromising the integrity of the rigorous clinical trial system and without eliminating the economic motivation to produce vaccines and medications.

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Robert Siegel

Robert Siegel

Professor — Department of Microbiology and Immunology Woods Institute for the Environment Program in Human Biology Center for African Studies