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Despite best immunity efforts, COVID-19 'will probably rear its head again in the fall': Doctor

Dr. Jesse Pelletier, President of Halodine joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to discuss the latest coronavirus developments as many wait to receive their vaccine.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: According to the Johns Hopkins tracker, there are nearly 16.8 million cases of coronavirus in the United States right now. And the death toll has now surpassed 304,000. Let's turn now for the latest in this pandemic with Dr. Jesse Pelletiere, President of Halodine. Doctor, what kind of winter and Christmas season are you expecting now that vaccinations have started-- and we might have a second vaccine-- Moderna's vaccine-- being rolled out soon?

JESSE PELLETIER: Like you said, this wave of the pandemic has really spread across the United States and pushed our health care systems to the brink. Over 300,000 deceased in totality, 1,500 to 3,000 new deaths a day, over 100,000 hospitalizations-- probably the darkest time since the influenza pandemic of 1918. We can contrast that, though, with the great hope and excitement of the Pfizer vaccine, literally now being placed in people's arms and the anticipation of the EOA from Moderna perhaps later this week.

And what I'm hoping is that we'll eventually have a layered approach to vaccines, and it will start to develop some population-based immunity. However, there's still a very dark time ahead of us. And I'm reminded of the Roman God Janus, whose depiction has one face forward and one face backwards-- partly looking to the future, partly looking to the past, but present in a tumultuous time at hand here.

KRISTIN MYERS: I didn't know I would be getting a Roman mythology lesson here today, doctor, but I really do appreciate it. Speaking about looking forward, in your note, you said that we need to adjust to a new normal. What is that new normal, as you're seeing it?

JESSE PELLETIER: Yeah, I think that we need to-- we're going to need to learn to live alongside this virus-- that we need to learn to carry infection control with us through the end of this virus and as we see it-- and as we see it moving forward. Because most likely, this virus will present itself as something that's endemic over time. And despite our best efforts in population-based immunity, will probably rear its head again in the fall.

So doing basic things like testing, tracing, and isolation-- we can get into those strategies-- but again, masks, social distancing, washing hands. We never thought that before this virus we'd be using alcohol-based sanitizers every hour, every 30 minutes, depending on what we do. And that's a new learned behavior. But there'll be other behaviors that we need to learn that might include also cleansing our nose and mouth before we place masks or don masks, similar to how we wash our hands before we place gloves. So the world will change significantly. And we'll have to change along with it.

KRISTIN MYERS: So let's talk now about this vaccine. I'm wondering if you've received it yet and what are some of your biggest concerns that you might have, if any?

JESSE PELLETIER: Yeah. Well, of course, it's a new construct. It's an mRNA construct. We haven't seen it before. It has not been FDA approved in vaccinations previously. And we just-- we're trying to extrapolate information from about 44,000 patients into the arms of 10 to hundreds of millions of patients, right?

So there are always concerns. We'll need more robust safety data over time. Currently, we're a little concerned about the reactogenicity of the virus. And that's a very normal response-- injection site redness, erythema, fevers, myalgia, body aches, all these things. We just want to really message to people that this is part of any type of vaccine and any vaccine construct.

And they shouldn't quote unquote "fear the needlem" and they should feel comfortable coming back for their second dose. It's really a public health good that we all are vaccinated. Myself, I'm an ophthalmologist by practice. I also work in biopharma as well. So I'm not a first line hospital health care worker in the ICU or anything like that. So I will be able to receive the vaccine in the next coming weeks, but currently am not able to.

KRISTIN MYERS: I'm wondering if you think folks might be a little bit hesitant to receive that second shot, that second dose of the vaccine, especially as we continue to hear these reports that some folks actually have some more severe reactions to the vaccine-- fever, sweating, chills, soreness. I'm wondering if you think that might be off putting.

JESSE PELLETIER: It certainly could be off putting. But we need to really message that that's normal. That's the way your innate immune system is really seeing the virus-- or seeing the vaccine and processing it. In an mRNA vaccine, that could be a reaction to the nano lipid molecule that encapsulates the mRNA or to the mRNA itself.

But depending on-- across all of constructs, you're going to see this reactogenicity, and that's normal. Now, we've seen patients with some anaphylaxis early on in the UK, and we should, of course, warn those patients who are likely to be allergic that they should do this under the very close supervision of their physician or not at all at this time. But really, we need to message that it's normal and it's something that's overcome within the first 24, 36 hours.

KRISTIN MYERS: I only have a few more seconds left with you here, doctor. If you had to look at your crystal ball, when do you think we can return to life as normal? Would it be next fall, next summer, next spring?

JESSE PELLETIER: Yeah. So that's a difficult question. There will be a new normal that starts to develop perhaps middle to late of 2021. I think there's going to be a lot of fall-out post-COVID of many issues-- mental health issues, economical issues, sociological issues that we have yet to deal with. I don't think there'll be a real true normal until 2023, 2024.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, we're going to leave that there. Dr. Jesse Pelletiere, President of Halodine, thanks so much for joining us today.

JESSE PELLETIER: Thank you very much for having me.