“Is our government aware of the severity of the crisis?” Yap Godsmith (1951) sighs mid-conversation. They work themselves to death, but do they feel the urgency? I have the impression not. “The doctor and virologist sits, shaking his head, in the conservatory in his villa on the edge of Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. There are books everywhere. The walls consist of bookcases, and on the coffee table are stacked high around various subjects, and the dining table and table are in The front room is full of papers and books.
“Now the politicians are talking publicly and we suddenly have to feel a lot of pity for the children who cannot go to school and the people who are lonely. They are absolutely right. But the only answer is: vaccinate faster. Now they will talk for a long time, there should be a committee.” And an influential group with behavioral scientists. This is symptom control. You have to deal with the cause. Fight the virus. You cannot solve this any other way. “
Goudsmit is a scientific career holder: trained as a physician, he turned to HIV and AIDS research in the 1980s, and in 2002 joined the business community. He was the scientific director and head of vaccine development at the biotech company Leiden Crucell, now known as Janssen Vaccines. He is still a professor at the University of Amsterdam and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
Last year, at the end of January, Goudsmit, nearly seventy years old, was on the verge of saying goodbye to virology. He wanted to spend his remaining years looking at an aging immune system. As a final agreement, it will teach a course on vaccines at Harvard throughout February. But then there was the Coronavirus.
“My students from China were in contact with home through WeChat. Someone said her mother was no longer receiving cancer treatment because all the doctors were sent to Wuhan. Then I knew: This is an unprecedented disaster. I couldn’t escape this.” On March 13, he returns home – on his last trip to the Netherlands. The whole world was locked up.
Goudsmit started a blog he writes about almost every week. He reads every morning new articles on medrxiv preprint server. It follows and discusses the works of fifteen friendly scientists from the field it raises. “A band similar to that of the Brothers. People I know do robust research, but also have original ideas, not always the most popular, and who are often surprisingly right.” His book was released on February 2, Corona-freeBased on the blog.
How do we get rid of Corona as quickly as possible?
“To combat the virus, we must vaccinate every person over the age of 60 as quickly as possible, whatever vaccine is available. These are the elderly and the vulnerable, those who are severely affected by the Covid-19 virus, and they are most vulnerable to serious illness and death from Covid-19. According to statistics. Netherlands, that’s 4.3 million people, and according to a briefing of the House of Representatives, 4.2 million vaccines are also available in the first quarter. It should be done in three months. Before the summer vacation, we give everyone a second chance. Then you cancel all the metrics. You send everyone on vacation. We are monitoring infections with rapid tests.
“This is pointless: we lose millions, loneliness increases, irritability, confusion, learning difficulty, populist visions. The third wave of infection can no longer be prevented. But we can prevent the third wave from entering the ICU if we vaccinate madly now. Next year.” Then, we will invite the elderly and vulnerable people for a new vaccine, or a wider group, depending on the spread of the virus and how long the resistance to the virus continues in people.
The risk in this scenario is that deliveries will fail. Is one shot also enough?
“In such emergencies, I would even dare to give all of those vaccinations only the first time. The Janssen vaccine protects 100% against interstitial cystitis and death from Covid-19 after a single dose. In fact, all Covid vaccines do the same thing: they stimulate Immune response against the coronavirus elevation protein, the part that binds to our cells.
“Since all vaccines are so similar, the second shot can be from any manufacturer. Janssen, AstraZeneca and Russian Sputnik V, you just give what comes. I’ll dare, in a crisis.”
But how do you monitor vaccines that still protect against new virus mutations?
“Mutants were expected to appear. The virus that has just spread among humans will change and will have slightly better access to our cells. Vaccines do not seem to protect much from infection or a mild form of Covid-19, and it gets worse with each new variant. But they all don’t.” They are still protecting against serious illness, hospitalization and death from Covid-19, also due to the new variants, so far it is only about the speed of vaccination.
We’ve seen that there is no measure that really eliminates the virus. Just too harsh, which we don’t want to take. Then you have to turn the risk and say: So I vaccinate with greater risks. “
Goudsmit is troubled by Dutch politics and how OMT supports it. “Health Council’s advice comes again and again: Vaccinate the elderly first. But the government always rocks around that. This is dangerous. You have to stick to scientific advice and don’t mix politics with it. This way you reduce the value of the flag.
IC doctor and OMT member Diederik Gommers, who admired him for his work, said acute care should be inoculated first. But there are few infections among acute care workers, and there are hardly any health workers in the intensive care unit. They have protective gear and are trained in hygiene. So you don’t have to vaccinate them first. This shouldn’t have happened. The best protection of health care is to vaccinate the group at risk of accepting interstitial cystitis. ”
How do you deal with that?
“I had hired someone who understands public health crises: Roel Coutinho, former director of the Infectious Disease Control Center at the Royal Institute of Public Health. Plus, maybe someone who knows a lot about viruses, like Ab Osterhaus. And the third is someone from the military. They should work.” Independently of politics Leave all logistics from A to Z with that group of people and never intervene at all. Then this stress pressure cannot work either.Doctors should simply vaccinate all the people who are called in annually to get the flu shot.
It is precisely this combination of vaccine knowledge, industry experience, and practical attitude that has prompted Goudsmit to join Covax’s Scientific Advisory Board. This is a special alliance with the World Health Organization, among other things, ensuring that all participating countries have equal access to coronavirus vaccines. The advisory board (Covax Independent Product Group) recommends which vaccines should be purchased and which countries should receive vaccines. The goal is to get 2 billion doses this year, 1.3 billion of them for 92 low-income countries.
How are things now with Kovacs?
All the rich countries either invested money in the pot, or promised to do so. I am not worried about that. Every Monday we receive presentations from vaccine manufacturers and have to advise what Covax should buy. Our advice is: whatever you can get. But they are not getting anything now. The problem is that many vaccines have to be manufactured by the serum institute in India. AstraZeneca, Novavax, the Chinese and the Russians, the Indians themselves. They can make billions of doses in months. But there are competing interests. The Serum Institute is located in India so the government wants vaccines for India and does not issue an export license. AstraZeneca now produces very little in Europe, so they might say: Send 20 million doses this way first. Then Covax could be in the back of the queue. “
So Russian and Chinese vaccines?
We think Kovacs should be open to everything, and I think Europe should be. You can find all sorts of things about those countries, but this is not the time to let that geopolitics play a role. We are looking at research data objectively, and we consider that there is a huge shortage of vaccines. The Russian Sputnik V vaccine is not reliable, but it works according to the data they entered The scalpel Published. It wasn’t so bad for us. But production is also a big problem for that. So we hope to get those Chinese vaccines after all, but through the WHO qualification. “
Should we only vaccinate those over 60 in Western countries and ship the remaining vaccines to developing countries?
“Actually yes. But the world is not that solid, I am not naive. There the science has been reached. But you also want to reduce health care in those countries. Even vaccinating 20 percent of the population can help a lot, as long as you start with a senior Age “.
Goudsmit’s proactive mindset can be welcome in a crisis like this. But it can be disastrous in other cases. As a new professor, Goudsmit discovered an anti-HIV drug in 1990, along with the then-famous chemist Henk Back. They publish in top magazines ScienceIt became the news of the world. Less than a day later, the criticism came: The tests weren’t good, and the “drug” Buck had made was not at all in the samples. Costing his career, Buck came down with Goudsmit with a rebuke. They didn’t talk again.
Did you really talk to Buck, as you meant on “Zomergasten” last year?
“No, I haven’t been able to get to that yet. It was a rough time. I haven’t done any scientific level for ten years of depression. Not a nice period. Now I’m more careful, and I’ve surrounded myself with important staff ever since. Since then, the quality has increased. My knowledge is very much. At Crucell I have done my best in science. And it paid off: there is a vaccine for HIV, an Ebola vaccine and a vaccine against the Coronavirus.
A copy of this article also appeared on nrc.next on February 11, 2021