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Is a COVID-19 Vaccine by End of 2020 a Realistic Expectation?

A person being injected as part of the first human trials in the UK to test a potential coronavirus vaccine, at Oxford University, England. (Oxford University Pool via AP)
A person being injected as part of the first human trials in the UK to test a potential coronavirus vaccine, at Oxford University, England. (Oxford University Pool via AP)

The Trump administration is pushing hard to have a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year. But what are the risks of moving too fast?

Neurologist and best-selling author, Dr. David Perlmutter, says rushing isn't really the issue – we all want a vaccine sooner rather than later. "But we do have to make sure that what is ultimately produced and purveyed upon the public is both effective and safe," Perlmutter told 700 Club host Gordon Robertson on Tuesday.

He noted that the swine flu vaccine, developed in 2009, caused serious side effects for some people, such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which is a neurological issue.

Perlmutter believes a more realistic expectation is that a COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available in a year to 18 months.

However, a new report out of Oxford, England last week had some encouraging news. Scientists there are working on a COVID-19 vaccine using an existing vaccine for another RNA virus that is similar to COVID-19. Those researchers say there could possibly be enough of that vaccine in six months.

"So we just have to keep watching the science," Dr. Perlmutter said, "We all want this to happen immediately, but we have to think about safety," he cautioned.

To see Gordon Robertson's full interview with Dr. David Perlmutter on Tuesday's 700 Club, click on the box above.

Perlmutter believes good quality, accurate COVID-19 testing will be the key to the country being able to safely open back up.

"We need to make sure these tests have low levels of both false positive and false negative results," he said. 

He went on to explain that a false positive result shows you have the antibodies for COVID-19 virus, meaning you've been infected with the virus even if you may never have had any symptoms. But a false positive result can show up if you've been exposed to a previous strain of coronavirus. Most of us have been exposed to other coronaviruses over the past decade, he said. Coronaviruses were first identified as far back as the 1960s. 

A false negative simply means the antibodies for COVID-19 are not showing up in your blood, even though you have actually been exposed.

"We need to ensure there are high standards of quality in terms of what these tests show," Perlmutter said. He believes these tests will be pivotal going forward as people get back to work and resume normal activities. He thinks the best course is to implement a combination of the social distancing we're already doing, along with common sense hand washing and the use of personal protective equipment as necessary. He calls it the "best of both worlds – keeping people safe and allowing the economy to get back underway."


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