Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., an Epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, joins Yahoo Finance’s Akiko Fujita to discuss the latest coronavirus developments, as Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the House Select Subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis.
CAROLYN MALONEY: How realistic is a vaccine? Is it dreaming, or is that a reality?
ANTHONY FAUCI: There's never a guarantee that you're going to get a safe and effective vaccine. But from everything we've seen now in the animal data, as well as the early human data, we feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021. So I don't think it's dreaming, Congresswoman. I believe it's a reality, and will be shown to be a reality.
AKIKO FUJITA: Optimism on the timeline for any one of these vaccine candidates to come to market. He also cast doubts on vaccine development efforts by China and Russia, saying he does not believe there will be vaccines so far ahead of the US. Let's bring in Dr. Suzanne Judd. She's an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health.
And, Suzanne, it's great to have you on today. You know, I feel like every time we talk, we're talking about where the timeline stands on the vaccine. You heard Dr. Fauci there saying that he's really optimistic things could come to market by the end of this year at the earliest. What-- how are you seeing this vaccine race play out?
SUZANNE JUDD: I think he's exactly right. The early human data looks good, which makes us feel very comfortable that if the next round of trials are promising again, we could move into manufacturing. And that's going to be one of the big holdups for the pharmaceutical companies. Even after they have a vaccine that works, they have to be able to make enough for hundreds of millions of Americans, and that just takes time.
AKIKO FUJITA: To that point, we did get some news today from Sanofi announcing that it had secured an agreement of $2.1 billion to supply the US government. 100 million doses is what we're looking at right now. There certainly does seem like there's a global race right now to secure any one of these vaccines, and there's questions about accessibility, you know, how-- who's going to get it first, and-- and how many doses there will be for those who really need it.
SUZANNE JUDD: That's a--
AKIKO FUJITA: --how are you seeing that play out?
SUZANNE JUDD: --great, great question. That-- that's one that we haven't answered yet. We don't know who needs to be vaccinated. Often, we vaccinate children. But as we're learning with this virus, that's probably not going to be the first target population. We tend to be better as a public health community about vaccinating children because we can control their entry to school, so it becomes a really easy way to vaccinate all at one time. This one, we don't have a plan yet. There's not been a clear plan put forward who will be vaccinated, when will they be vaccinated, and how will we decide the priority in terms of who gets to-- to get the vaccine first.
AKIKO FUJITA: So then it becomes a question of who's most at risk. As-- as you see these cases tick up in-- in new states, like a Tennessee, you know, are we starting to see that the profile of those patients change? And-- and how does that change who actually should get the vaccine first?
SUZANNE JUDD: That's another good question. Absolutely, we're seeing younger and younger people get sick. And by younger, I mean 18 to 45. That's a group that had not traditionally been included in the-- the data we'd seen from New York and from Washington, Washington State that is. Now we're seeing that-- that as each state begins to roll into this almost second wave, they tend to be much younger in terms of the cases.
And when you think about a vaccine campaign, it would depend on whether or not the goal of the campaign was to stop the spread of cases or protect the people who are most at risk of dying. And you can imagine two very different strategies. If we're trying to protect the people at risk of dying, we would vaccinate the older population. If we were trying to protect the people that seem to be spreading it the most rapidly, we would probably vaccinate the young adults. So that still remains to be seen how this will play out.
AKIKO FUJITA: It-- it seems like we're always getting this mix of good news, bad news when it comes to where we are in-- in trying to control the virus. You know, on the one hand, we've seen the average number of cases per day down about 1% from the last few weeks, which is not significant, but seems to show that there's some capping off that's happening. And yet we heard from the WHO today, said that there was a record daily increase in cases globally. The total number increased by 292,000 or more than that. What's your sense of where we are in realizing the totality and the impact of this virus?
SUZANNE JUDD: We are still not in a good place, particularly in the US. The whole southern part of the United States has way too many circulating cases. And that matters because the more circulating cases you have per person, the more likely someone else will become infected, and the-- the less likely we can really control this pandemic. We should be able to control it in the summertime. I mean, our numbers should really be better than they are right now.
So it becomes particularly scary when you think about what will this mean in November or December. Roughly 80% of Americans have still not gotten the coronavirus. There are a lot of people that are still susceptible. And what the WHO is highlighting are some other countries, like Brazil and Chile, that have seen really dramatic increases in cases. It's almost like as soon as you take your foot off the brake and give the-- the virus just a little bit of space, it starts to spread all over again.
AKIKO FUJITA: You just pointed out that there's still concern about what could happen down the line in November or December. There's always been this concern of a second wave that could be coming in the fall. Do those concerns still hold? Or are we looking at, you know, something like the-- what the WHO said last week, which is essentially this is all one big wave, there's no break in the middle here?
SUZANNE JUDD: They're right. We really haven't hit a break. We never came back down to close to zero in cases, so really we're still on the first wave. I think that the concern is that there will be another wave in vulnerable populations so that you'll see cases start to grow in those people that are over the age of 75 or with chronic health risks, which would make-- mean that we'd have an increase in deaths. That's-- I think when people talk about the second wave, they're talking about that-- that second wave back into vulnerable populations, but not the true epidemic second wave.
AKIKO FUJITA: So what needs to be done now to ensure that we are, in fact, prepared for that second wave, if we're still in the first wave, and we're still struggling to get the testing done and getting it turned at a meaningful time? You know, it seems like we've got some control on the most vulnerable populations. We're not seeing the kind of death rates we saw back in March or April. What needs to be done in anticipation of yet another wave coming?
SUZANNE JUDD: We have to give people clear guidance about what this virus is and how it spreads, helping them understand why we think wearing masks is important in public, why we're trying to keep gatherings down to less than 50 people in some places, less than 10 in others, depending on how many cases you have. If we can get people to change their behavior slightly, it would really slow the spread of this. And if-- if we can maintain that behavior change into the fall, that will help us to contain any isolated outbreaks that we see that could be very damaging again if they hit some of those vulnerable populations.