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. He also recently published a book called The COVID-19 Catastrophe.
Here, he shares what scientists do and don't know about COVID-19 and how investors should be thinking about virus mutation as it pertains to a vaccine.
Richard Horton: Our understanding has really shifted. Now in terms of the future, the most important thing we need to learn is about the immunity. If you've had this virus, how long will your immunity last? Is it two or three months? Is it 12 months? Or is it longer than that? Because that's going to determine, if somebody has become infected, how quickly they can reenter society, but it's also going to determine how we deal with the vaccine, if and when we get a vaccine. Because if we do get a vaccine, how long will that immunity last? Is the immunity the same for everybody? Will it be the same for you? You're younger than I am, I can see that. It's more likely that your immunity will be stronger than my immunity, and somebody who's in their 70s and 80s, it's likely their immunity will be even less, but we don't know for sure. So there's a lot of still we have to know.
Cardina: Yeah, absolutely. The implications to the vaccine are huge. I think there's also probably some questions around the mutation of the virus and how that will impact a vaccine. Are we going to have to change the vaccine annually and get a different one, that kind of top of mind?
Horton: Absolutely. Is it going to be like influenza or not? At the moment, we do know that this virus does mutate. There are different forms of it. Different forms are associated with the different severity of disease. But it's too early at the moment to be sure whether a vaccine that's produced will be able to cover all strains or whether the virus will mutate overtime and escape the protection of the vaccine because we're only 10 months into the pandemic. Let's say we get a vaccine later this year. It's going to take us probably another 12-18 months before we can be sure whether that vaccine will protect us in the long-term.