Nordic Life Science 1
ike the COVID-19 epidemic, our political leaders
were very slow to recognize the seriousness of the problem with AIDS. Ronald Reagan refused to say the word AIDS until very late in his administration, and he never publicly admitted the magnitude of the problem. The government was also very slow to allocate funds for AIDS research, and it took the death of a public hero, Rock Hudson, to begin to mobilize public support. People with HIV suffered from a stigma that people with COVID-19 don’t suffer from. This was only mitigated by a concerted effort to normalize the disease, such as Princess Diana holding AIDS babies and hugging AIDS infected men. In both cases, the scientific and medical communities responded with alacrity and efficiency. The pharmaceutical industry was slow to react, but eventually did an excellent job. In this case, the biomedical research apparatus is fully engaged in moving quickly and our doctors have responded with heroism and exceptional activity, as they did in the previous epidemic. Specifically in the United States, the enemy of rational response has been political conservatism and libertarianism, both inappropriate in the face of a natural disaster. A question that I have always asked is what would the response be of political conservatives and libertarians to a volcanic eruption, a major earthquake, or a tsunami? Why is it any different from this natural disaster, which is a virus? The fact is that a virus is a natural disaster. This could be because a virus 74 NORDICLIFESCIENCE.ORG is viewed much more as a human agent, which it is not, rather than a natural element, which it is.” You have said we should not put too much hope in a vaccine, both for HIV and also not for the new coronavirus. Can you elaborate? What are the hurdles? ”Vaccines work for the infectious diseases that our body naturally clears and remembers, such as polio, measles, mumps, chickenpox, and many of the childhood diseases. They are childhood diseases for exactly that reason. Once seen, they are never forgotten. Therefore, the only susceptible population are children. That is not true for diseases like malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, or herpes. These organisms infect us and never leave. They are more typically transmitted among adults, but not limited to them. Vaccines are extremely difficult to make, because these diseases are designed to evade the immune system. In general, the coronaviruses have a very different way of interacting with our bodies, which makes a vaccine questionable. It is not as questionable as HIV, in which we are never able to clear the virus. However, from many decades of study of coronaviruses, we now know that this virus infects us and then the body forgets it. An individual can certainly be infected time and time again by the exact same cold-causing coronavirus. You may be infected and clear the infection, yet the following year, you may be infected by that very same virus. At this point, it appears that this is what happens with this infection too. The body very quickly forgets it, which is measured in a very rapid loss of antibodies to the virus in many of the people who have been infected, such that this virus could reinfect without undergoing any change. It is different from influenza, in which influenza could reinfect a person after it has mutated and changed. The coronaviruses don’t need to change to reinfect. Under that circumstance, we are not sure about vaccines.