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Pharmaceutical companies ‘are doing a good job’ with efficacy and transparency: physician

Dr. Aruna Subramanian, Infectious Disease Physician at Stanford Health Care, joins The Final Round to discuss the latest developments surrounding the coronavirus: from the rise of new cases worldwide to the recent news coming out on the vaccine race.

Video Transcript

MYLES UDLAND: All right, welcome back to "The Final Round" here on Yahoo Finance. Myles Udland with you in New York. Well, as we noted, we've seen case counts on the rise here in the US. COVID hospitalizations and, unfortunately, COVID deaths also on the rise in the last couple of weeks. So what does the summer or the-- excuse me, the winter hope for us? What could the vaccine platform look like in 2021? For more on all of that, we're joined now by Dr. Aruna Subramanian, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care.

So Dr. Subramanian, let's just start with kind of your overview right now of the state of the virus' progress here in the US. Because-- are you considering this a third wave, an extension of the second wave? How are you thinking about the virus in terms of that kind of progression? I know the media says it in terms of waves. But from a medical perspective, has this ever really slowed down in your view?

ARUNA SUBRAMANIAN: No. I think it's really still ongoing. And people are, you know, hoping that it'll just go away. I think we're getting some pandemic fatigue, and people aren't being as careful sometimes. Plus, the weather is getting colder, and people are coming inside. So many, especially the Midwestern states, as people are coming inside, they're not necessarily thinking of all the things they should do to keep up being careful-- keeping windows open, maintaining a safe distance, keep wearing masks, hand hygiene, not congregating in large numbers.

You know, we still have to be careful. This is not an on and off switch. It's not just going away overnight. We still have to have common sense and be careful. And, you know, we don't have to live in bubbles and completely locked down, but we-- we have to continue to do what's right for public health and for the safety of all of our folks around.

And, of course, we still don't have good programs for testing, tracing, and, you know, isolating in places where sometimes it's needed and people aren't-- you would think that we'd be ready for it by now. But I think there's a bit of fatigue setting in, and we are seeing numbers going up in many places.

MYLES UDLAND: Well, so let's go back to the--the weather point that you raise, because a number of the states we've seen high case counts-- you mentioned, you know, the Midwestern, Northern, and Western states-- the Dakotas, Montana, Wisconsin, of course, a notable one, among them. I mean, it's just the beginning of what's going to be many, many cold months in those states.

And then, you know, here in the East Coast, OK, it's 70s, humid in New York today. But in a month, it's not going to be quite as nice outside. And I mean, are-- do you think that Americans are really prepared for how long this winter might feel in-- in pretty much all of the country, unless you're in, I don't know, maybe Miami or something?

ARUNA SUBRAMANIAN: That's right. I mean, I think we-- we can't let ourselves-- let our guard completely down. You know, we-- we need to continue to be careful. And-- And I think the cold weather and the winter is going to be something we have to be ready for, you know? And it can't be politicized. This is not a political thing. It's really something we have to do to get our country through this. You know, people went through wars. Our generations before us suffered through wars for years and really worked together as a country. And we need to come together as a country and work to get through this.

SEANA SMITH: Hey, Dr. It's Seana. We're getting some headlines here just in terms of Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca potentially resuming their vaccine trials here in the US. I'm curious, just as we talk about the vaccine trials resuming, of course, the big question out there is what needs to be done in order to gain the public's trust. I think a lot of people are still a little bit hesitant about whether or not they would be willing to be administered this vaccine. And that, of course, is a huge potential problem when we talk about fighting this vaccine.

We heard from California Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this week. He was talking about how the state wants this independent panel of experts to review any federally-approved vaccines before they're administered. I'm just curious, just from your perspective, is this something that you think could be a good idea and could help get the public's trust and help, I guess, get that vaccine out to people or, I guess, convince them that it's safe to use?

ARUNA SUBRAMANIAN: Absolutely. We need transparency. And we need to be able to feel safe about the data that's coming out in these vaccine trials. And I think they are doing a good job. They are pausing when-- when there are possible adverse effects. And they're not just pushing forward. So I think the companies are doing a good job. The Data Safety Monitoring boards are doing a good job. And if they make the data public, I think the public will feel confident.

I think the other thing that has to be included is that we need to access-- or-- or all different people need to be involved in the trials, right? We can't have just certain demographics participate in trials. We really need everybody to participate in the trial to get good data in all segments of the population. And we're hoping that people who will be willing to [AUDIO OUT] participate can get that data out there and [AUDIO OUT] [INAUDIBLE] review it. I think all [AUDIO OUT] are interested in getting a safe, effective vaccine out as soon as it's feasible.

DAN ROBERTS: Dr. Subramanian, Dan Roberts here. Let's end on this. When you look around at, you know, the country right now-- we're talking about spikes. We were talking about what behaviors should and shouldn't be happening. You were saying, obviously, you know, we can't just totally stay in and do nothing, but we need to do more distancing.

What's your reaction to all the sports that are taking place? And also, of course, in college football and the NFL, we're now seeing some games start to allow in-person fans in some places, as much as half-capacity of a stadium. Do you think that shouldn't be happening? What do you think should be being done differently?

ARUNA SUBRAMANIAN: I think that we should really figure out what our priorities are, right? So we need to make sure that-- that schools take priorities-- priority over sports events, which-- and take-- which take priority over bars and-- and other things. So I think that as a country, we need to figure out our priorities. And I think certain sports events may be safe if there's distancing and masks and-- and, you know, small numbers.

But I think that shouldn't take priority over ge-- making sure our kids can get a good education and--and-- you know, and--and making sure we can test and isolate and trace. And I think there's-- there's so many, you know, things. I feel like sometimes we-- we focus on the-- on the wrong things instead of really focusing on what needs to be done to get us out of these-- I think nursing homes need more help. There are-- there are places where we really need to focus our attention to help us get through this.

MYLES UDLAND: All right. I couldn't agree more. I think the pandemic fatigue that you mentioned at the top the segment, Doctor, is certainly something that--that I think the conversation around COVID has kind of fallen along those lines, unfortunately. And as you know, many more months to come on this--

ARUNA SUBRAMANIAN: Yeah.

MYLES UDLAND: --unfortunately, for all of us. All right, Dr. Aruna Subramanian with Stanford Health Care, thank you so much for your time today. We'll talk to you soon.