As a physician-scientist who has spent nearly 40 years studying viruses and immunity, I can speak to the scientific advances that made rapid Covid-19 vaccine development possible. I oversaw the work at the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center that provided the basis for designing and evaluating the initial Covid-19 vaccines and antibodies.
If anything about the pandemic is remembered as positive, it will be how science was applied to rapidly produce medical countermeasures.
But despite the scientific successes, I have doubts about our ability to deal with the next pandemic threat as readily as we dealt with Covid-19 — even if it is a better-known virus like influenza. Case in point, we had a monkeypox vaccine and antiviral drug before that recent outbreak, but by the time they were deployed, thousands of people were infected.