Why a vaccine does not replace therapy

Treatment in Peru: The network will protect you from mosquitoes, but this Covid 19 patient in the Ucayali region cannot hope for oxygen therapy. Here you rely on herbs.
Bild: AP

Why it can sometimes help to weaken the immune system or why a vaccine does not replace medication and what the current corona crisis has to do with AIDS in the eighties – explains the British infectiologist and tropical medicine specialist Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust.

Mr. Farrar, you started your career as a doctor in London in the 1980s. It was then when the AIDS pandemic began and you were dealing with patients for whom there was little you could do. Can parallels be drawn to what we are experiencing now?

There are many parallels. For one thing, they are both zoonotic infections, and I think it’s important to be clear about that because many people have forgotten that HIV came from animals, like almost all emerging infectious diseases. But the most important parallel is another: Medicine has made huge strides, and in affluent countries it is quite rare today that medical staff is confronted with something that simply cannot be done. And at the beginning of this pandemic, doctors could not treat the sick very specifically because they simply had no experience with the disease; Patients presumably received artificial respiration too often and no one knew that blood clotting played a role. It just wasn’t clear that it was an infection that affects the whole body, not just the lungs. For me this is the greatest similarity to HIV, even then we had no therapies on hand that we knew would work.


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