Despite frantic efforts by world governments and pharmaceutical companies to quickly develop a vaccine against COVID-19, their efforts to do so might end in failure. Instead of spending billions of dollars to fast track this vaccine or vaccines, government-private partnerships should, instead, concentrate on managing COVID-19 using extensive contact tracing and forcibly isolating those infected.
This surprising assertion was made by Dr. William Haseltine, a respected American scientist famous among his peers for his groundbreaking work on HIV/AIDS in the 1970s and the human genome. Scientific American named Dr. Haseltine one of the 100 most influential leaders in biotechnology in 2015.
Dr. Haseltine declared his belief a vaccine for COVID-19 might never be found. He said while a COVID-19 vaccine might be developed, "I wouldn't count on it."
Instead, countries need to focus their efforts on the careful tracing of infections and strict isolation measures to control the spread of the disease. Dr. Haseltine noted even without an effective treatment or a vaccine, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can be controlled by identifying infections, finding people exposed to these infections and isolating them. Like other health professionals, he urges people to wear facemasks, wash hands frequently, clean surfaces and keep a safe physical distance from other people.
He revealed the strategy of rigorous contact tracing and strict isolation of infected people was used to great success by China, South Korea, Taiwan and other Asian countries. On the other hand, the United States and other countries that didn't do enough to "forcibly isolate" all of those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), the virus that causes COVID-19, suffered accordingly.
Dr. Haseltine said China, South Korea and Taiwan have done the best at curbing COVID-19 infections. He said the United States, Russia and Brazil have done the worst, as can be proven by the fact these three countries are the top three in terms of having the largest number of disease cases in the world.
Out of the world's total of 5.31 million confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Saturday afternoon, Hong Kong time, 1.65 million were in the U.S.; 332,000 were in Brazil and 326,000 in Russia, according to Worldometer. These three countries accounted for 43% of the world's total number of COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Haseltine also said there are other alternatives to a vaccine as a cure for COVID-19. He mentioned "hyperimmune globulin," which is a refined and concentrated version of convalescent plasma now being used in New York City to treat patients. He predicted hyperimmune globulin is "where the first real treatments are going to be." He also mentioned monoclonal antibodies that specifically target and neutralize the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to enter human cells and trigger massive infections.