Health Care

Top HIV researcher stresses infection tracing, isolation to fight coronavirus

A top researcher in the fields of HIV/AIDS and cancer warned Thursday that social distancing and contact tracing were the most effective short-term efforts for fighting the coronavirus and expressed doubt that a vaccine would be available soon.

Reuters reported Thursday that William Haseltine, founder of ACCESS Health International, threw cold water on the possibility of researchers developing a vaccine for COVID-19 at all, telling the news outlet, “I wouldn’t count on it.”

In an interview with Reuters, Haseltine called for Western nations to do more to “forcibly isolate” those with the virus and rigorously enforce social distancing and stricter hygiene requirements. Contact tracing, which tracks where infected persons have traveled or visited, is also important to stopping the spread, he said.

Several companies are working on a possible vaccine, including AstraZeneca, which announced a $1.2 billion contract with the U.S. government to develop, produce and distribute a vaccine on Thursday.

Haseltine warned in an op-ed for The Washington Post published earlier this week that companies working on a vaccine could make fanciful claims about their success without such statements being verifiable by news outlets or outside experts.

“This is ‘publication by press release,’ and it’s damaging trust in the fundamental methods of science and medicine at a time when we need it most,” he wrote.

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