As the world approaches the milestone of 150 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and more than 3.1 million deaths in less than a year and a half of the pandemic, we can say that the global response to the new coronavirus had flaws.
Even with the advent of vaccines against the disease that has already killed 400,000 Brazilians, vaccination has remained at an accelerated rate in only a handful of countries, which have managed to drastically reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths. The pandemic continues to grow around the world, mainly driven by countries like India – which has broken world records for recorded cases – and Brazil.
For Anthony Fauci, director of the American Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Niaid) and the country’s leading health authority today, the world as a whole has done badly, but the United States has done much worse.
The problem, he said, was the lack of coordinated action, given the federative character of the country. “The common enemy was the virus, but we were fighting among ourselves, because there was a governor who said, ‘I believe everything you say, let’s follow the guidelines. [do CDC]”and another who sent a message to the people that they cannot give in to the imposition of sanitary measures,” Fauci said.
Confused messages and initial mistakes, mainly in not centralizing mass testing in the country, made it even more difficult to manage the pandemic well. “We have fought a pandemic at the most divided time in US history. I have never experienced this in my 37 years as the head of public health.
The White House Chief Health Advisor spoke at the Nobel Prize Summit virtual event, which ran from Monday (26) to Wednesday (28), hosted by the Nobel Prize Foundation , the American National Academy of Sciences, the Potsdam Institute for the Climate Impact Survey, and the Stockholm Resilience Center / Beijer Institute.
In addition to Fauci, around 100 global science and health authorities, world leaders, Nobel Prize winners and artists attended the meeting, divided into interview panels over the first two days and in scientific discussion sessions, with proposals for collective solutions for climate change. and the loss of biodiversity, the reduction of inequalities and the technology used for sustainability in societies on the third day.
The Covid pandemic has spread across the world and across the country, as viruses see no borders, but some regions have encountered particular difficulties in containing Sars-CoV-2, as is the case in the United States and Brazil, where the virus first entered. capitals and spread rapidly within the country.
“For the virus, there is no difference between Mississippi and Indiana, between Maine and Vermont. We act like we can fight the coronavirus independently, but that doesn’t make sense because it’s spreading everywhere, ”Fauci said.
In this sense, facing a president who has denied the importance of the pandemic, neglected preventive measures and repeatedly attacked China for being the epicenter of Sars-CoV-2, like former President Donald Trump, was an aggravating factor.
Fauci says there is always a need to maintain integrity, even if that means speaking “inconvenient truths.” “As health authorities there is a need to stick to the science and talk about what needs to be said. We cannot say only what the government wants to hear, ”he said.
Likewise in Brazil, clashes between former health ministers Henrique Mandetta and Nelson Teich and President Jair Bolsonaro (without a party) over the right strategy to carry out Covid-19 in Brazil were the causes of the departure of the first and of the resignation of the second. .
Since the start of the pandemic, Bolsonaro has taken a stand against health measures, such as wearing masks and social isolation, lied about the effectiveness of these measures and vaccines, spoke in favor of the easing restrictive measures on the movement of people, and even approved drugs that have proven ineffective in fighting the virus, such as hydroxychloroquine.
Regarding vaccines, Bolsonaro lied that the vaccine can turn people into alligators, cause death, sequelae or even drug companies are not responsible for the effects and therefore people are said to be guinea pigs. in studies.
Fauci recalls, however, that vaccines against Covid-19 did not come out of nowhere in 2020: they are the result of decades of scientific research, and their production in record time has only been possible thanks to a significant investment in research. and development.
“The history of Covid-19 vaccines is one of decades of biomedical research, of tens of thousands of people working day and night on the immunogenic structure of the Sars-CoV-2 protein and how to use it, how to stabilize this protein and how to make it lead to an immune response. It didn’t happen in January, it’s been happening for 10, 15 years. “
One of the two winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Jennifer Doudna (the other laureate was Frenchwoman Emmanuelle Charpentier), also spoke at the event about the Crispr gene editing technique and its application in the pandemic. .
The discovery of the technique described for the first time eight years ago was made thanks to the study of the immune system of bacteria, which Doudna considers to be a perfect parallel to the time in which we live. “It’s interesting that Crispr is a bacterial immune system whose function is to detect viruses in the body and store information about them. It’s almost like a memory cell. So we can use the technique to identify Sars-CoV-2 in the body much faster and without needing to amplify the genetic material by the RT-PCR method, ”he said.
In addition, the researcher explains that the technique has also been studied for use in environmental research, such as improving carbon sequestration by agricultural production plants, thereby decreasing the amount of CO2 gas in the atmosphere. “We are now taking one more step to use Crispr to fight climate change,” he said.