The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world -- but which parts has it changed forever? Now that vaccines from the team of Pfizer (PFE -1.49%) and BioNTech (BNTX 1.49%) and Moderna (MRNA 0.59%) are being distributed, the end of the pandemic is nearly in sight. But the great ordeal has taught us a lot about the value of vaccine and drug development, distribution challenges, diagnostic technology, and -- of course -- masks and personal protective equipment. Dr. Bruce Gellin joined Corinne Cardina and Olivia Zitkus of Fool.com's Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau on a Dec. 18 episode of Fool Live to talk about our "different normal" post-pandemic.
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Corinne Cardina: Looking down the line, once we do have a significant portion of the population in America vaccinated, what do you think the world is going to look like once this herd immunity, whatever it looks like, is reached? Is it going to be important to continue wearing masks and social distancing for the foreseeable future?
Dr. Bruce Gellin: I hope not for the foreseeable future, but for the near-term future, I think so. For the very near-term future, I mean, right now absolutely. I do worry a little bit up to think, vaccine here, problem solved, time to go out, and it happens to be the holidays. Right now, this is not the time to, as everyone was saying, be off-guard, because it's such a critical time when we're having this disease escalation. I think it might look like how we handle influenza maybe a little differently. I think that probably we're going to see people, masks will not go away entirely. I suspect we're going to see a different way of maybe respiratory etiquette where people might be wearing masks in the winter time. I've seen that in other countries where in the winter time people wear masks for a variety of reasons, either to protect themselves or to protect others, I think we're going to see some of that. I think people are going to be thinking twice about where they sit and who they are around and who the air they're exchanging with and maybe try to be a little more cautious. Hopefully, we're not going to become paranoid because of that, but I think we'll be more cognizant of that. What I don't know, and that's maybe what you guys have been exploring is, are there some other technologies that are going to come out here that's going to help us with that? Francis Collins, who runs the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it's a little bit facetious to joke that maybe we're going to need to have a coronavirus diagnostic in our toothbrush. So every morning you'll know whether or not it's OK for you to go out if this is such a strange virus where you can be asymptomatic and spread. So I think there will be things like that. It's going to be a different normal. Then quickly on the vaccine side, I think we're going to learn a lot from what we learned in these past 11 months on how we can move a lot more nimbly, a lot more quickly to develop products that we need and not wait for five and 10 years, it has been historically.