• Janell Cleveland

Covid-19 Report: Answering Your Questions About Testing

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

Covid-19 Report: Answering Your Questions About Testing

I had a whole bunch of plans of what to write tonight, but once again, I am going to throw out my pages of notes and talk to you from the heart. Buckle up, friends, it might get bumpy. Oh, and the numbers speak for themselves. It’s- A LOT.

First, I want to talk to you about vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. Many of you have asked me about them. The truth is, I think we are looking at it the wrong way. We live in a society of, “Give it to me, and give it to me now.” We can’t even tolerate when our WiFi goes out for five minutes, much less when there’s a disease with no vaccine. We want this mess FIXED. NOW. Where’s the repairman? When can I hop back to my old life? What’s the number for tech support, and why AM I ON HOLD?! Listen, we’ve got to stop looking for a “quick fix,” and hanging all hope on an unrealistic timeline for a miracle cure. There’s a way out, it’s just not what you think. And life on the other side is going to look different.

First, let’s talk first about the potential new vaccines currently in clinical trials. The front-runner is based on a really experimental type of vaccine called an “mRNA vaccine.” These vaccines use a little snippet of genetic material that codes for a protein from the virus and relies on your body to make the protein, and to recognize it as a foreign invader. Your body then ramps up antibodies to that foreign protein, and you are (theoretically) protected by your own immune system.  This type of vaccine is so new that there is very little evidence that it works at all in humans, much less against SARS-Cov-2. I’m not saying that it won’t, but I am saying that it’s a long shot. Hey, I like a 3 pointer from half court as much as the next guy, but I am not going to rely on it to win the game. (See? You don’t need sports right now! Science can provide all the excitement you need!)  

Another front-runner would take antibodies from the blood of recently infected individuals and inject them in others to either help them fight an existing infection, or prevent a future infection. However, one donation can only treat a few people at a time, and may not even work at all. Plus, it relies on the good nature of those with antibodies to donate. That isn’t exactly going to provide enough antibodies to immunize all of us, even if it works.

There are other vaccine candidates out there, all in different stages, and eventually, one, or a combination of them, will work, to some degree. But when you hear, “In 12-18 months we will have a vaccine,” it’s equivalent to saying, “In 12-18 months our economy will recover!” No one really knows that it’s just hopeful thinking which is being used as a tool to keep you calm. (Remember when we were also told that masks weren’t really helpful because we didn’t have any?) Listen, don’t fall into despair and stop reading. I’m not saying there’s not going to be a vaccine. I am saying that it will NOT be the fairy godmother that you think it is. There are a lot of viruses that have been around a long time, and we still don’t have vaccines for them. And many of the ones we’ve got aren’t completely effective. We just have to be realistic about our expectations.

OK, so let’s talk for a minute about the question on everyone’s mind, and the #1 question I got yesterday. What’s the deal with hydroxychloroquine? Most of you know this by now, but it’s an antimalaria drug, also used for a few other conditions, that’s been touted as being a potential treatment for COVID-19. But you need to know that there’s as much evidence that it doesn’t work as there is that it does. Trust me, I read every scientific study that has been published, and lots of anecdotal evidence from doctors. The truth is probably in the middle- it might show some limited effectiveness, but it’s not going to be a “miracle cure.” Everyone wants it to be administered NOW, and can’t understand why it’s not being given everywhere. But we just don’t know yet that it’s effective, or even safe for COVID-19. Many drugs that are safe for one condition can cause adverse reactions when used to treat another condition. Plus, the dosage and timing will be different, and that can cause complications. And hydroxychloroquine can have some serious side effects, including arrythmia, especially in those with pre-existing heart conditions.

More brutal honesty:  we live in a society where, if something bad happens, people want to know who’s going to pay for it. We want a miracle cure, and we want it NOW, and we don’t want any side effects. And if there are side effects, we want to know who we can sue, and we want to bring down the big pharma company that had the nerve to bring the drug to market! And the doctor who prescribed it! We’ve created a society that causes people to act based on whether or not they could be sued. No one wants to be the doctor, or the pharma company, who saves someone from COVID-19, only to be sued because that person has permanent erectile dysfunction.

So now I’ve led you down a dark, hopeless path. But really it’s not, its just not a “quick fix.” Here’s what it looks like: we hang out a few more weeks in isolation as a nation. This allows us to do four ultra-critical things:

1) Get PPE (personal protective equipment), ventilators, and hospital beds to a level where we can manage a substantial outbreak in most communities.

2) Educate, educate, educate!! We need doctors and nurses to get up to speed on the latest treatment methods. We need the public to get educated too- personally, I think public education campaigns should be EVERYWHERE about how to wear face masks/gloves, how to wash hands, and how to interact at a safe distance, for example. We also need to learn by watching outbreaks in other countries and how they deal with it.