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'Darkest days not ahead, we know more about covid': Doctor

Dr. David Katz, Preventive Medicine Specialist & True Health Initiative President, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest new on the coronavirus.

Video Transcript

- Let's take this discussion to Dr. David Katz. We invite him into the stream. He is a preventative medicine specialist and the president of True Health Initiative. Thank you for joining us. What worries you most about the revelations of this new variant of COVID-19 or of coronavirus?

DAVID KATZ: Well, Adam and Julia, good to be with you. Thank you for having me. Well, my worry would be the same as everyone else's. If we wind up with a viral strain that is better at transmission, more people will get it, more people will spread it. If it's also more virulent, more people will get really sick. And if it's different enough from other strains, then potentially vaccine efficacy could be reduced, the big worry is all the way down to zero.

You asked me what worries me. I don't think those things are true. I think the only thing that's true, Adam, is that it spreads better. And we can talk about why that's the most likely of the three. The idea that this is more virulent, there's no evidence in support of that, so not clear that it makes people sicker, and frankly, not all that likely. And extremely unlikely that it would be significantly resistant to the vaccines that have been developed.

So those would be the worries, but I think really all that we have evidence to support so far is that the B117 strain of SARS-CoV-2 is better at spreading. And inevitably, you know, this is how this works, right? I mean, viruses are replicating all the time. The strains that infect people most readily wind up taking over at the population level. That was inevitable from the start.

- And Dr. Katz, we were talking earlier about some comments from President-elect Joe Biden about the darkest days being ahead for the virus. And would like to kind of hear from you in your expertise, especially as folks are-- I suppose some folks are traveling home for the holidays. I'm certainly not. My husband's not. We are staying put. But what can-- what do you-- what do you expect to kind of play out here?

DAVID KATZ: Well, you know, first of all, Julia, I have tremendous respect for the President-elect, so I don't want to state anything at odds with what Joe Biden is saying, but of course, he's in a position where he wants to essentially influence mass behavior, and wants us all to be careful and wants everybody to take the available precautions-- mask use, social distancing, sanitation, all of those things.

I totally agree with all of that, but I really don't think the darkest days are ahead because in the beginning of all this-- and of course, we had a significant surge in parts of the country last spring-- we knew a lot less about the enemy, the virus. We knew less about how to treat it, we knew less about how to manage severely ill patients, we knew less about viral transmission, we knew less about how to do effective testing, and we had absolutely no idea then when the vaccines would actually be ready.

There was all this talk of 18 months. As it turns out, that timeline was beaten. But that was a hope, and it might have been years, and we might have wound up not having an effective vaccine.

So I think the darkest days were the days of greatest uncertainty. The case counts are very high in the country now. Hospitals are full now. Partly that's COVID, partly that happens this time of year anyway. So I actually don't think the darkest days are ahead. We know a lot about the virus, we know more about how to treat it, and the vaccines are available, so the cavalry is on the way. I think that a lot of people are immune--

- Well, wait, wait, wait--

DAVID KATZ: --and the vaccines will finish that job.

- OK, we want to get the job finished. So in the roughly 20 seconds we have left, we're still waiting for Johnson & Johnson. We're going to get their results in January. Is it realistic for people under, say, 60 and over 21 to expect-- and healthy-- to expect to get a shot sometime before June, the vaccine?

DAVID KATZ: As best I can tell. Hard to know for sure what the production and distribution timelines will be, everybody is still guessing at those, but two approved vaccines already, more on the way, the more that are approved, the greater the availability. And I think we're going to see, particularly with the transition to the Biden administration, an all-out campaign to get these vaccines distributed to people who will benefit and are willing. So yes, I think the prospects for that are quite good, Adam.

- Dr. David Katz, preventative medicine specialist and True Health Initiative president, we appreciate your being here.