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Doctor: Even as vaccines progress ‘we can’t let our guard down’

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Dr. Andre Campbell, Professor of Surgery of UCSF & ICU Physician and Trauma Surgeon at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to discuss the latest coronavirus developments.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: But I want to start today's show on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The White House, as I mentioned, has put together that unusual deal between two what are normally competitors. That's Merck and Johnson & Johnson. And that's all to help Johnson & Johnson manufacture that single-dose coronavirus vaccine.

So let's chat more about this with Dr. Andre Campbell, professor of surgery at UCSF and ICU physician and trauma surgeon at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. So, Dr. Campbell, now we have what almost feels like a wartime effort really to get as many of these single-dose vaccines out there, manufactured, and into the arms of as many people as possible. How quickly-- now that we have this almost wartime effort, how quickly do you think we can get everyone vaccinated?

ANDRE CAMPBELL: Well, again, thank you for having me this morning, Kristin. So I think that's absolutely fantastic news, the fact that two titans in the drug industry have now joined forces to produce vaccines. We're in a race to try to get as many vaccines in arms as possible. So we have to try to vaccinate as many as possible.

Right now, as of today, we've vaccinated roughly 15% of the population, at least one dose. That is-- we're supposed to get to 70%, 80%. So anything that will increase the effort-- right now, we're vaccinating 1.2 million a day. We need to get to 3 million a day. So the more vaccine, the more access is better for us, because we're starting to see the light of day at the end of the tunnel.

KRISTIN MYERS: So what do you say to folks-- and I was actually having this conversation just yesterday, which is why I want to ask you about it again. What do you say to folks that are really skeptical of that J&J vaccine because its efficacy rate is not as high as what we are seeing in Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccine? Does that mean that J&J's vaccine is not as good?

ANDRE CAMPBELL: No. I don't-- I disagree with that. I think it is actually-- it is really good.

So if you look at the numbers-- so we have three vaccines in the United States, right? One is Pfizer. One is Moderna. Now we have Johnson & Johnson. So the efficacy for the two in terms of not getting the severe disease is 95%. It's less on Johnson & Johnson, but Johnson & Johnson is one dose.

But if you look deeper into the numbers, what you see is that people are not getting hospitalized. People are not dying of it, particularly with the new variants taking hold. They tried it with the new variants, and, actually, it keeps you out of the hospital, and it keeps you from dying. So that's really the message that we want to give to people.

In fact, it'll be easier. You get one shot, and you're done. So we're going to vaccinate all the teachers in the United States, for example, and the students. You get one shot, and you're done. It's an easier-- it's an easier fix. And what you're trying to do is keep people out of the hospital, keep people from dying, and that vaccine is perfectly a great solution for that.

KRISTIN MYERS: You know, I've been getting vaccines ever since I was a little girl. And I feel like what I'm about to ask you is a bit of a basic vaccine question then. So then is what we are trying to do with these vaccines not so much make sure that people can't get the disease at all, but rather that if they do contract the coronavirus that they will always stay out of the hospital and that they will not get severely ill and face death?

ANDRE CAMPBELL: Yeah, that is true. So we know that, as of today, we have 28 million, 29 million cases. We have crossed a milestone of 500,000 deaths now, 514,000 deaths. So what the vaccines do is that it will prevent you from getting severe disease and dying.

So you still can get it, and that's why we'll have to have some level of protection even after everybody is vaccinated. You'll have to wear a mask longer than maybe we want to. But it is here to protect you. Because getting COVID, getting in the hospital, dying of COVID is what we're trying to prevent.

And these vaccines, even though they were accelerated timeline, they were tested. They were retested. They were tested in different populations. Now they're testing them in pregnant women to see how they work in pregnant women. So they're work-- and they're going to test it in kids too. So they're working, and we're very hopeful now that this happens.

But we have to be vigilant, because, right now, we are at the same number as we had in July. So in July, we had about 65,000 cases and 2,000 deaths. That was the peak in July. In January, we peaked at 250,000 cases and over 3,000 or 4,000 deaths up to 5,000 deaths a day. So we're at a turning point. We can't let our guard down.

KRISTIN MYERS: So we have another vaccine-- you mentioned we have three in the United States right now, but we have another one from Novavax that is shooting for FDA authorization by May, so by springtime. I'm wondering if you think that with so many vaccines becoming available that, not just here in the United States, but really globally, we will really be out of the woods or over this pandemic perhaps by the end of this year.

ANDRE CAMPBELL: I think we're all hopeful for that, I mean, because everybody's tired. It's been a year that we've been going through this. But, you know, we're just trying to vaccinate the United States first, right, because we're essentially the epicenter. We have 5% of the population, 20% of the deaths in the world. We have a huge number of cases here.

So if we can control it here, then we can begin to give it to other people around the world. Because this is a global problem. This is a global pandemic. It's not just us. We're being affected in a big way, but, now, it's about making sure everybody gets vaccinated throughout the whole world to make things safe.

So I think it's going to be-- you know, they're projecting-- Dr. Fauci says, you know, late fall into winter, you know, maybe we have control of it. But the more vaccines we have, the better. And getting Novavax, that's going to be fantastic-- get it approved, get it out there. We're vaccinating 300 million people. You know, 300 million doses are coming. You know, this is-- so either one or two doses. Make sure we vaccinate as many people as possible.

KRISTIN MYERS: You know, while I love chatting with you, Doctor, I do look forward to the day that we don't have to have conversations about this pandemic anymore. Dr. Andre Campbell, professor of surgery at UCSF and ICU physician and trauma surgeon at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Thanks so much for joining us.