What we know and don’t know about virus variants and vaccines


President Biden’s backing of science

A reporter asked each infectious disease expert to share their impression of President Biden’s newly signed COVID-19 executive orders.

“The biggest takeaway is the role of science and the lessons we’ve learned from masks, handwashing, and distancing,” Dr. Edwards said. “We need to heed the advice ... [especially] with a variant that is more contagious.

“It is encouraging that science will be listened to – that is the overall message,” she added.

Dr. Salvatore agreed, saying that the orders give “the feeling that we can now act by following science.”

“We have plenty of papers that show the effectiveness of masking,” for example, she said. Dr. Salvatore acknowledged that there are “a lot of contrasting ideas about masking” across the United States but stressed their importance.

“We should follow measures that we know work,” she said.

Both experts said more research is needed to stay ahead of this evolving scenario. “We still need a lot of basic science showing how this virus replicates in the cell,” Dr. Salvatore said. “We need to really characterize all these mutations and their functions.”

“We need to be concerned, do follow-up studies,” she added, “but we don’t need to panic.”

This article was based on an Infectious Diseases Society of America Media Briefing on Jan. 21, 2021. Dr. Salvatore disclosed that she is a site principal investigator on a study from Verily Life Sciences/Brin Foundation on Predictors of Severe COVID-19 Outcomes and principal investigator for an investigator-initiated study sponsored by Genentech on combination therapy in influenza. Dr. Edwards disclosed National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grants; consulting for Bionet and IBM; and being a member of data safety and monitoring committees for Sanofi, X-4 Pharma, Seqirus, Moderna, Pfizer, and Merck.

A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.


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