Interview Conducted By Veronika Hackenbroch

05.01.2021, 11.49 Uhr

Source: Der Spiegel

Reprinted for educational purposes and social benefit, not for profit. 

DER SPIEGEL: Dr. Farrar, will we get our normal lives back in 2021?

Farrar: I think it is unlikely that we will be able to return to a completely normal state as early as this year. 2020 was a deeply traumatizing experience for people. Many have lost relatives and friends. Children could not go to school, adults could not go to work. Today, when you see footage of people crowding into public transport, sporting events or theaters and cinemas, close together, it looks like a different time. It will take time for us all to regain confidence.

DER SPIEGEL: Will we be able to beat the coronavirus this year?

Farrar: If we get it right, yes. We know how to keep the virus at bay with contact restrictions. In addition, large populations around the world could be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the first half of the new year. With both measures together, we can hope that next autumn or winter will mark the beginning of the post-COVID era. First, however, we are now entering a new dangerous phase of the pandemic.

DER SPIEGEL: You mean the new variants of the virus that have appeared in Britain and South Africa?

Farrar: Yes. These mutants are significantly more contagious and have become the dominant virus variants in these countries in just a few weeks. The British mutant has already been found in several other countries, including Germany. I think it is inevitable that these new variants will spread and soon become dominant around the world. This will make it much more difficult to control the pandemic — and it could get worse if the virus continues to change. So, we are now in a dramatic race against a changing virus that is under an enormous immune pressure.

DER SPIEGEL: What do we have to do to win the race?

Farrar: Firstly, we have to take really tough urgent measures to slow down the spread of Sars-CoV-2 and its new variants. And secondly, we have to vaccinate large parts of the global population as quickly as possible in the first half of 2021 — we have to do it before the summer. If we were to take until autumn, that would not be fast enough. We would see another wave in the winter of 2021. So, Germany, for example, has to vaccinate more than 4 million people per week. We are facing a huge challenge.

DER SPIEGEL: But the goal of vaccinating large parts of the population by summer cannot be achieved with the two vaccines from BioNTech, which is already being administered, and Moderna, which es expected to be authorized for use in Europe this week.

Farrar: That’s true, these mRNA vaccines are important, but there will soon be other vaccines. The vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University has just received emergency approval in the United Kingdom. Hopefully, the vector vaccine from Johnson & Johnson will also be approved soon. These vaccines are so important as they can be used worldwide. With the AstraZeneca vaccine, the efficacy is between 62 and 90 percent, and we know that it can prevent severe disease. None of the study participants who received the vaccine had to go to hospital.

Recent estimates suggest that up to 85 percent of the world’s population would need to develop immunity to SARS-CoV-2 through vaccination to stop the pandemic.

Source: Anthony Fauci, CNBC News