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It's not just the vaccine. There are many causes for hope in the fight against Covid

3 500 637
16.11.2020

On 5 January 2020, the World Health Organization sent a memo to governments across the world reporting a small cluster of pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan, China. For many countries, the warning was like looking through a fog. Each month, the WHO picks up on average 3000 potential disease signals and chooses 30 to investigate. In early January, global health scientists like myself were trying to assess the outbreak of “Wuhan pneumonia”, as it was then called, with huge gaps in our knowledge and considerable uncertainty: what was the virus or bacterial agent causing this cluster? How did it transmit? What was the case fatality rate? And could it be contained?

The pandemic may seem to have gone on forever. As we approach the end of 2020, it is easy to lose sight of how much progress science has made over the past 10 months. Since January, scientists have gained a far better understanding of Covid-19 transmission, and have developed the tools to manage the virus. In fact, while the next four months will be difficult, the promising vaccines, better testing and treatments and greater knowledge we now have about how to control this virus will make the situation far better by March.

Scientists have never moved so quickly from sequencing a virus to injecting a potential vaccine into a volunteer’s arm. There are 12 vaccine candidates in phase 3 trials being tested for safety and effectiveness, several of which look extremely promising. After collecting more safety evidence, the next set of challenges will be manufacturing and delivering enough doses, and ensuring people trust and will take the vaccine. The biggest question is one of strategy: will the vaccine be used to eliminate, suppress or mitigate the virus? Countries will take different routes, based on their own Covid situations.

But the vaccine is far from the only area of scientific progress. We now understand how this virus spreads........

© The Guardian


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