Now classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly throughout the world, including in Vietnam.

Recommended precautions for most healthy individuals are careful hand washing, avoiding touching your face, disinfecting frequently-touched hard surfaces, and practicing social distancing, including avoiding large gatherings.

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Some tips below from Dr. Mason Cobb, Vice-Chair of AmCham Healthcare Committee’s Medical Providers Subcommittee:

One ray of sunshine in this pandemic is new scientific understandings from intensive study of this highly contagious infection.  New research emerges almost daily describing the biologic behavior of SARS-CoV-2, medications or other therapies already available or under investigation.  These advances will make us more effective in future viral outbreaks.

Very recently, the US FDA cleared Remdesivir for more widespread use in a highly publicized announcement. Other agents showing promise are selected HIV medications, convalescent blood plasma transfusion, stem cell treatment, and immune suppressants to calm the “cytokine storm.”

Current hospital and ICU treatment for COVID-19 patients, however, is supportive care – intravenous fluids, oxygen, artificial ventilation if necessary, in the more severe cases. The idea is to let the body manage the viral infection itself via the immune system, as is often the case with viral infections as compared to bacterial infections, where antibiotics are effective and widely available.  Looking back, this new pathogen has only been recognized for about 5 months, with little specific information about it, but new and innovative treatments are already emerging to meet the deeper understandings of the disease.

While medications and hospital care are vitally important, the ideal solution lies in prevention through vaccination. There are currently eight vaccines for COVID-19 undergoing clinical trials in humans.  In addition, the WHO states there are more than 100 other vaccine candidates in pre-clinical evaluation around the world.

A few notables from this vaccine list: in early May, the Moderna project received permission from the US FDA to progress to a Phase II trial; and, University of Oxford models anticipate an 80 percent likelihood for success and could be available as early as September.

We know the vaccine is the Holy Grail in controlling the pandemic.  This is a race to the wire and could pit nations against others in terms of who is first and how to manufacture and distribute the vaccine.  Mass-producing enough doses for the entire world will be a challenge and who gets the early lead may best be able to protect their people and determine the conditions for the rest of the world.

At this stage, we still do not know much about how long immunity will last, because it is so new and direct research is still lacking. Up to this point, all assumptions and lessons are largely based older Coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS, but we still lack certainty for COVID-19.

The scientific understanding of immunity and documented evidence of this immunity for individuals, businesses, and communities – either through infection or immunization – will be key to both saving lives and fully resuming economic activity.