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Trump expresses confidence for coronavirus vaccine ‘by the end of the year’

In this article:
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Dr. Leana Wen, Emergency Physician and Visiting Professor at George Washington University School of Public Health, joins Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith to discuss the outlook on a timeline for a coronavirus vaccine as more states begin to reopen their economies.

Video Transcript

LEANA WEN: So, I do think that this antibody test is important, but it does not replace the other test that we always talk about, the PCR test, the swabs, because the other test looks at whether somebody currently has the infection, and we need to know that. If somebody has symptoms, we need to know, do they currently have COVID-19? Or if they don't have symptoms, we also have to know, because of the high number of asymptomatic carriers there are, we need to know whether somebody is actively infectious and able to pass on the virus to someone else.

The antibody test is useful as an adjunct as well because we also need to know, has somebody been exposed before? And ideally, if somebody has been exposed and they have immunity, that would mean that they may be protected from having COVID-19 in the future, although that's still a big if. So this antibody test is important, but I don't think it should dissuade us from getting more of those PCR tests to find out if somebody actually has the infection right now, and can pass it on to others.

SEANA SMITH: Doctor Wen, we've been talking a lot about testing, why that's so important? Why we need more tests? There's also been lots of talk about potential vaccines, potential treatments. I want to get your thoughts on what President Trump said over the weekend.

And he was very positive in an interview last night, and by that, I mean, that he was saying that we will have a vaccine by the end of the year. Do you think that this is within the realm of possibilities?

LEANA WEN: [INAUDIBLE], it is the most optimistic estimate that I've heard anyone say. And I think that has to assume that everything will align perfectly, and we'll just strike gold, and get really lucky. Now still though, even if we have a vaccine by the end of the year, that doesn't mean that we'll have vaccinations. And I think that's really important because even if you have a drug approved and it's effective, it's only going to be effective if everybody is able to receive this vaccine. And the idea of getting millions and millions of doses, maybe billions of doses produced by the end of the year and for us to have gone through all these clinical trials, that seems like a pretty big stretch to me.

SEANA SMITH: So Doctor Wen, what do you think is a more realistic timeline?

LEANA WEN: Again, I think even in the best case scenario, we should still be looking at a year to a year and a 1/2 of getting approvals for a vaccine. And then it will take even more time for us to get the vaccine into people's hands. A lot of that will depend also on what the federal government does when it comes to putting into place something like the Defense Production Act.

I mean I'm worried that we haven't really put into place this act for getting personal protective equipment, and ventilators, and swabs, and reagents for these tests. So, are we really going to be able to do that? Also if and when we do get a vaccine. If we do, then we'll be able to get it a lot sooner, but I hope that we'll [INAUDIBLE].

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, Doctor Wen, it looks like you-- we lost your audio. So I'm going to try and ask this question. I mean, we can get a figure out how I'm asking this. But Doctor Wen, I want to get your thoughts on, so we've talked about the fact that we don't have a vaccine. We're not going to have one for quite some time.

We don't have a treatment. We still have a shortage of tests. Yet, we're seeing more and more states scale back their coronavirus related restrictions, and we have Florida today beginning to reo-- beginning their reopening process. What's your assessment of the reopening plans across the country so far-- so far, and from your perspective, do you think they're being done safely?

LEANA WEN: Well, the White House issued clear guidelines that were based on evidence about when reopening should occur. And the baseline criteria was that there was a consistent-- that there should be a consistent 14-day decline in the number of infections. And I really worry that many of the states that are reopening have not met that basic criteria, as it is, much less taken into consideration that because of lack of testing, we don't know the true numbers that are there in the first place.

So I really do worry because we know what's going to happen. I mean, the one thing that hasn't changed in all of this is the virus. We still don't have a vaccine. We don't have a treatment. This is a highly contagious virus, including for individuals who don't have symptoms can transmit it to others.

And so I just worry that we are, by definition, going to see a resurgence in the number of cases. And the question is, what's our tolerance for that? Will we be able to dial it back and increase restrictions again, if we see that resurgence? And how many of the capabilities will we have built in, in the meantime?

Because the whole point of social distancing was to buy us time. It was to buy us time to get more testing, more tracing, more treatment, more preparations available. And I just hope that all those sacrifices that people have made will not be in vain if we roll back the restrictions too soon.

SEANA SMITH: All right, Doctor Leana Wen, emergency physician and visiting professor at George Washington University School of Public Health. Thanks so much for taking the time this afternoon.

LEANA WEN: Thank you.