Home News World Opinion | Dr. Robert Gallo: The Case for a Stopgap Vaccine

Opinion | Dr. Robert Gallo: The Case for a Stopgap Vaccine

To the Editor:

Antibodies Didn’t Last Long After Infection in Study, Especially for Asymptomatic” (news article, June 19) highlights that unknowing or recovered Covid-19 carriers at best develop weak antibodies that may be effective for some few months, leaving carriers vulnerable to the possibility of repeat infection.

This appears to rule out “herd immunity” as an avenue for vanquishing the virus. It appears that true immunity will come only from a vaccine that works to prevent infection safely for a defined and specific period of time and can be produced and delivered to billions of people quickly. Once such a vaccine is proved effective, we will learn for how long only with the passage of time.

Virtually all vaccines under investigation target the “spike” protein that is used by the pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2, for cell entry. What’s Plan B if the antibodies to the spike protein are not durable or if the spike protein mutates, as has been seen in some studies?

To get over the gap until we have a proven, effective, classic vaccine, which gives specific antibodies and specific cellular immunity, we believe that an immediately available and promising approach involves stimulating the body’s own innate immune system to do the job.

This might be done by using an approach that has worked against other viruses for years: simply feeding another virus to stimulate the body’s innate immune system, ideally the Sabin Oral Polio Vaccine (O.P.V.), which is extremely safe, available, inexpensive and a powerful stimulant of an immediate, emergency response against a wide range of other viruses beyond polio.

O.P.V. may not offer permanent immunity to Covid-19, but preliminary research from many investigators suggests that it will be effective for long enough to minimize the risk of people being infected for months when they return to work, and immunity could be sustained by periodic booster doses until a more permanent vaccine is developed and available.

Robert Gallo
The writer is co-founder and director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-founder of the Global Virus Network.

While we’re at it, how about re-examining the names of the sports teams that some fans have insisted remain in place, despite their disparagement of our country’s Indigenous peoples? Though the Washington Redskins have decided to remove the name of the original owner from their stadium and website, that the team name, Redskins, represents Washington feels especially hypocritical.

Karen Kevorkian
Belle Mead, N.J.

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