Coronavirus latest: Don’t count on a vaccine, warns top scientist
Chalkmarks William Haseltine

PEOPLE shouldn’t count on a coronavirus vaccine any time soon – despite what politicians tell them, a leading scientist has warned today.

Dr William Haseltine said science still hasn’t found a vaccine for SARS, MERS or even HIV. But the Covid-19 outbreak can be controlled with drugs and through tracing, tracking and isolating those infected.

The former Harvard Medical School professor said: “We’re going to have drugs. Vaccines: we are not sure whether we will ever have a vaccine. Do not count on it.

“Don’t listen to the politicians who say ‘We are going to have one by the time my re-election comes around’.

“Not a good idea. Every time people have tried to make a vaccine – and lots of people did for SARS and MERS – it hasn’t actually protected them.”

A pandemic can wipe out an economy. How many lives are going to suffer because of that?

His comments to Reuters TV, with more than 17,000 views, come as politicians in the UK and US have suggested a vaccine could be ready later this year.

Instead, Dr Heseltine said, Western governments would do better to copy the example of Asian countries, that experienced SARS and MERS and were better prepared to manage the pandemic.

He said: “You can control this disease without a vaccine or a drug. You control it by three basic principles: identify those who are infected; identify those who have been exposed; and – the thing that we don’t do in the United States is – forcibly isolate all those exposed.

“What’s happening in East Asia? They are managing it over time. They are opening up but the moment they find a few people infected, they are on it amazingly. They do massive contact tracing and forceable isolation and if necessary re-close an entire town.”

Talking about learning lessons, Dr Haseltine said the West also wasn’t prepared for what a pandemic would do to the economy.

He said: “The Chinese and the South Asians – the Vietnamese, the Hong Kong, South Koreans, Japanese – they got it, because they had SARS. They saw their economies begin to collapse. They acted, I don’t think necessarily only to save lives, they acted to save economies.

“We should certainly learn our lesson. A pandemic can wipe out an economy. How many lives are going to suffer because of that? Lives are being blighted. Economies are being blighted. People’s opportunities. What happens to this graduating class? They are coming into a closed up world where there are no jobs. What kind of a world is that for our kids? There are huge consequences of these types of infections that are not taken seriously enough.”

Dr William Haseltine ranks the countries that have handled the coronavirus best and worst.

The best:

China

South Korea

Taiwan/ Hong Kong

The worst:

Russia

US

Brazil

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