Fool.com's Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Cardina interviewed Richard Horton on Motley Fool Live on Oct. 9. Horton runs the British medical journal The Lancet and has been at the forefront of publishing data about the coronavirus pandemic this year. He also recently published a book called The COVID-19 Catastrophe.
Here, Horton shares why the public may be overreacting to news of a possible COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon.
Corinne Cardina: We've gotten a question that I think is really relevant to this conversation from one of our viewers. Someone asked, what do you think the biggest misconception is about a COVID vaccine?
Richard Horton: The biggest misconception I think is that it's going to be a magic bullet. If we have a vaccine, it will turn the pandemic off just like that and we can all go back to our normal lives. The sad truth is that that is not the case. Let me take you back to 2002, 2003 when there was another SARS virus that came out of the woodwork in China again and got distributed to half a dozen countries around the world. By the middle of 2003, it disappeared and we've never seen it again. It vanished. This virus is not that virus. This virus is now in every population, every community around the world, and we have to live with it. A vaccine will be an important tool in building up population immunity, but the virus is still going to be among us. The idea that we can erase, or eliminate, or eradicate the virus from society just is not true. I think that's one of the more dangerous myths. We have to come to terms. The way I would put it is a kind of peaceful coexistence with the virus. We have to live side-by-side with the virus. We have to renegotiate our relationship with the virus. If we understand that we have to do that, I think we will be much better placed to be planning our futures.
Cardina: A quote that, I don't remember who said it, maybe you do, but in the book, it says that if you've seen one pandemic, you've seen one pandemic. That really stuck with me. Who said that?
Horton: It's a guy called Adam Kucharski. He's a mathematical modeler at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and he studied lots of epidemics, and they're all different. You can draw some lessons, general lessons, but by and large, when you get down to the detail, everyone is different.