The most important thing to read today.
And other tough, contrarian messages from virologist William Haseltine. We ignore them at our peril, he says.
Over his career he worked on or developed drugs for HIV/AIDS, anthrax, and other ailments. The 76-year-old is also an expert on aging and dementia. And he started up Human Genome Sciences with Craig Venter in 1992.
Here, then, are eight cautions by William Haseltine that, while hard to hear, may save many lives if heeded.
1. Beware of those who purvey premature hope.
2. Even a vaccine that works likely won’t solve the pandemic.
3. A flattened curve is not a road to victory.
4. ‘Herd immunity’ is a dubious prospect.
5. We remain woefully unprepared.
6. Nature is not nearly as controllable as we wish.
7. Much bigger threats loom.
8. Changes in behaviour can save us now. And far more certainly than any vaccine.
“It is only a matter of time before a coronavirus that is far more lethal and contagious than this one emerges to ravage the world’s population,” says Haseltine. “When that happens, we will no longer be talking about a global death toll in the ‘mere’ hundreds of thousands.”
When William Haseltine told a group of fellow scientists in 1986 that an AIDS vaccine would be unlikely because of the difficult nature of the virus, he was booed off the stage. His colleagues even threw stuff at him.
“But we still don’t have a vaccine for AIDS,” he recently told Reuters. “We don’t know for sure that a [COVID-19] vaccine won’t be developed, but I can say with the same conviction — don’t count on it.”
In the last couple of weeks the virologist also has offered some jarring observations on the nature of the coronavirus, self-promotion by drug labs, the hazards of rapid reopenings and our global unpreparedness for what is yet to come.