We havent even beaten the coronavirus second wave yet, but things are so bad overseas that an expert has warned Australia could be hit again.Professor Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Global Biosecurity at the Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney said the spread of coronavirus is “actually worse today around the world than it was back in March or April”.
The virus is spreading at a quicker rate through northern hemisphere nations than it ever has before, with European nations recording their highest ever daily tolls.
Professor MacIntyre said this was a stark reminder that Australia is not out of the woods by a long shot.
“There’s always a risk that infection can be reintroduced, and set off community transmission in Australia,” she said in an interview with the Australian Academy of Science.
“If people are being cautious, keeping their distance, wearing masks, and generally being careful, then even if infection is introduced into the community, hopefully it won’t take off as badly.”
However, she said events in the US — with the coronavirus sweeping through the White House — show that a super-spreading event can happen pretty much anywhere on the planet.
“It highlights the fact that there’s so-called super-spreading events can happen anywhere anytime, even in the most privileged of circles,” she said.
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“And, that in the middle of a pandemic, you really do need to take those precautions, the physical distancing, the face mask, particularly in a country like the US where there’s very widespread community transmission and very serious epidemic activity. And if you don’t take those precautions then those kinds of super spreading events can occur.”
In the 14-minute interview, she also spoke about experimental treatments and potential issues with a COVID-19 vaccine, saying the jab may only be able to stop us getting super sick.
“One possible outcome is that the vaccine doesn’t have a very high efficacy or that we don’t get a vaccine that has a high enough efficacy,” she said.
“You need a vaccine that’s at least 70 to 80 per cent protective to be able to achieve herd immunity. … However, if you’ve got a vaccine that’s low efficacy, you can still achieve a good outcome if the vaccine reduces the severity of the disease.
“So if the majority of people who get vaccinated have a mild, common, cold-like infection, instead of a serious life threatening infection, that’s also a good achievement, but that also means that the virus will continue to circulate.”
She said we’re likely to see a vaccine of some description in the first half of next year however, the supply is the big question.
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“Even if a vaccine is proven to protect people in a Phase 3 clinical trial, none of the vaccine technologies have really the ability to scale up production massively. So we will expect that supplies will be short initially,” she said.
“Wealthy countries will probably buy up most of it and other countries will have to wait in line. So initially probably the scenario will be that we don’t have enough vaccine for everybody and the first responders, health workers etc, get vaccinated first.”
“It really depends on what kinds of vaccines come out in the end, how effective they are and how quickly they can be scaled up and made accessible worldwide.”
She also spoke about the drug Remdesivir, an antiviral drug used to treat Donald Trump that was first developed as a treatment for ebola.
It works by confusing the virus as it looks chemically similar to some of the raw materials the virus needs to replicate. This disrupts the virus’s ability to make thousands of copies of itself.
“The drug Remdesivir does have Phase 3 clinical trials, which is the sort of ultimate evidence that we look for, which is showing protection in people, in human beings, from the effects of the disease. And that does show a modest benefit in terms of making the time to recovery faster,” she said.
Tune into the full Latest From Science interview here