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'Health measures do work': Doctor on preventing new cases of COVID-19

Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Nada Fadul, joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down the latest COVID-19 news as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown as cases rise.

Video Transcript

INTERVIEWER 1: And we're going to see the number of coronavirus cases increase in California. Meanwhile in the Midwest, we've seen the reverse happen. So what's behind all that? To answer some of those questions, I want to bring in Dr. Nada Fadul-- she's associate professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center-- to get to the bottom of this.

Now, doctor, we look at California and we see the number of cases rise, but in the Midwest we're seeing they're being able to contain the spread of the coronavirus. So are there lessons from the Midwest that can possibly be applied to California to reduce the economic impact we know is inevitable with further shutdowns?

DR. NADA FADUL: Thank you for having me. I think the lessons that we learn is that health measures do work. And we knew this from the beginning. It's really just implementing them. So when--


I apologize for that.

When government officials took this seriously and implemented these health measures strictly in their states, they started to work, and now we're seeing a decline in cases. But we're not really lowering our guard because we know this might actually start reversing, especially after the holidays and with the travel that we've seen lately. These numbers might start to change. So we're keeping our guard on and we're continuing to try to encourage people to practice these health measures.

But at the same time, I think the lesson learned is that government officials, governors need to take this very seriously and become very proactive in implementing these directive measures before they see the numbers rise. Because once the numbers start rising, it is a little too late to start implementing these measures for them to actually be effective.

INTERVIEWER 2: Dr. Fadul, is that the case in the United Kingdom? We've got news of a new lockdown there, and yet it's already got out of the bag.

DR. NADA FADUL: Yeah, unfortunately, I think the United Kingdom started seeing this new variant of the B117 of COVID-19 a little earlier than the rest of us. We don't really know if it actually started there before the United States yet, but we know that they discovered it a little earlier than the rest of us. And we know this variant is actually a little more contagious than the previous variants of COVID-19, and that probably led to a massive explosion. To contain those explosions, it's going to take a little longer and more efforts from government officials and the public. So that's why they had to resort to a lockdown, which is seen as the most extreme of these measures. So I'm hoping we don't get to that here, but we really need to reinforce the directive health measures that we know before we get to that state where we need to actually implement a lockdown.

INTERVIEWER 1: And speaking of that UK lockdown, you pointed out that in the UK they found a strain that was even more contagious, but we know that there's also a new strain that's been found in South Africa that may pose, possibly, reportedly more risks than the new strain that was found in the UK and the US in certain states.

So let's go to the vaccine. Is the vaccine going to protect us from all these different variations of the coronavirus that we're seeing?

DR. NADA FADUL: The simple answer is that we don't know yet, but there is no indication that there's any changes in these viruses that will prevent the vaccine from being effective. So I think everyone in the field agrees right now that the changes and mutations that happened to the virus will not impact the vaccine effectiveness. And we're all very optimistic that the vaccine will continue to work against these new virus variants.

Unfortunately, this is not unexpected for coronaviruses and RNA viruses in general. They are known to mutate very rapidly and change over time. But so far, everyone thinks the vaccine is going to work.

INTERVIEWER 2: What about this news that perhaps just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine provides sufficient efficacy to prevent disease? Should we go that route?

DR. NADA FADUL: I think most of us who believe in evidence-based medicine do not favor that route simply because that was not what was studied and led to 95% effectiveness. We know that the 95% effectiveness only came as a result of the two doses of the vaccine, for the Pfizer vaccine given three weeks apart. There was an indication from the clinical trial data that the effects start, actually, very early-- maybe around day 10 or so-- but that doesn't mean one dose of vaccine is going to be effective for most people.

My concern-- if we delay the second dose or do not administer the second dose, we're not going to see that 95% effectiveness, and we're not really going to know which populations, actually. We're going to have less immunogenicity, meaning they will produce less antibodies with one dose versus two doses.

So it's a very risky situation to take, in my opinion. I think let's stick to the data, let's try to improve the system, improve the vaccine rollout. Because the difference between the doses that have been distributed versus those that have been administered is quite big. And even though there is a delay in data entry, we still think there is a lot that could be done to improve those numbers of people who actually got inoculated with the vaccine.

INTERVIEWER 1: Solid advice there. Let's definitely stick to the data. Let's focus on that.

Dr. Nada Fadul, associate professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, thanks so much.

DR. NADA FADUL: Thank you for having me.