Even in the most optimistic scenario, the coronavirus disease outbreak in the Russian Federation will last for at least two months, Georgii Bazykin, Skoltech Professor, Chair of the Molecular Evolution Sector, IITP RAS, believes
According to his forecast, on a global scale the COVID-19 situation can follow three scenarios depending on how stringent the countermeasures being taken in any given country are. "The first option is the severest one. Unless no action is taken, we are going to experience very steep and sharp growth of cases. There will be a violent outbreak of the disease; the peak of the epidemic will claim the lives of huge numbers of people, followed by the total population immunity. It will take approximately two months and such a situation will be associated with an enormous number of deaths, so the vast majority of countries treat this kind of scenario as unacceptable.
G. Bazykin (on the left) and A. Kuleshov during the online conference "Coronavirus Vaccine Creation. Forecasts from Scientists". .
If, however, highly effective quarantine measures do manage to block the transmission of the coronavirus disease almost entirely, there is a hope that each country will locally suppress the outbreak within a few months. For instance, an optimistic forecast for Russia would be two months, but more time is likely to be required. If all actions being taken in this country prove to be very effective, then a drop in new cases will take that very amount of time. It is important to bear in mind that until the vaccine is created, the world will remain different, since those measures cannot be fully canceled due to the danger of imported disease cases.
"If measures prove to be moderately effective, then the pandemic will last for many months; there will be many fatalities, but the peak of the disease will be leveled down and the health care system overload will be avoided. The best we can hope for is that very stringent measures will reduce the number of the coronavirus disease transmission cases. We know that it is possible due to the fact that Singapore, South Korea, and, to some extent, China managed to do it," Professor Bazykin said in his speech at the press conference "Coronavirus Vaccine Creation. Forecasts from Scientists".
Another participant, Skoltech President Alexander Kuleshov, is convinced that 60–70 % of the world's population is going to be infected with the coronavirus disease. Many are likely to have already recovered, but are not aware of it. "It will not be limited to weeks or months," Mr. Kuleshov believes.
Mikhail Gelfand, Skoltech Vice President for Biomedical Research, refrained from forecasting the time frame of pandemic, but emphasized that in the situation of uncertainty nation-wide meaningful decisions will be taken to have due regard to human psychology. "It is clear that the quarantine should be lengthy in order to stop an outbreak of the disease. But it should be reasonable, as well. You cannot lock a great number of people in their apartments for a long time as it is psychologically challenging. The quarantine to be invented should be manageable for the population. People should not be penalized for breaching self-isolation rules, as there is no such a legal concept. Not a single Moscow resident clearly understands what they can be penalized for. The extent of compliance with quarantine rules depends on how it will be grounded from a legal and economic standpoint."
Mr. Gelfand: the extent of compliance with quarantine rules depends on how it will be grounded from a legal and economic standpoint.
As for the main topic of the press conference, the time frame for the coronavirus disease vaccine creation, Mr. Gelfand called on people not to expect rapid solutions: "You cannot make nine women give birth to a child in a month." The cycle of vaccine creation and clinical testing takes years in a normal situation and several months in extreme situations.
Georgii Bazykin forecasts that the first vaccines against the new coronavirus disease to be used massively will be created and undergo all testing phases one year from now at the earliest, even if all possible testing delays are minimized. "Seasonal flu vaccines are updated annually but it is important to understand that influenza virus is well studied and the process of mass production and update of the vaccine against influenza is fully up and running. In fact, the process always remains the same, the only thing that changes is the composition of viruses, based on which the vaccine is developed. Even in this case, it takes six months to make a vaccine. I therefore find any estimates of less than one year unrealistic," Professor Bazykin said.
For the time being, there are only several prototype coronavirus vaccines. "We are at the beginning of our journey and we still have a long way to go until our ultimate goal of creating seven billion doses is achieved in order to confer immunity to the entire population of the world. If less vaccines are ultimately produced, it is not bad either, but even that objective is really hard to accomplish. The 18-month estimate, which is often cited, already has regard to the shortening of all stages of vaccine checks. It takes years to develop them in a normal situation. There are no more shortcuts to take," the scientist claimed.