New viruses emerge every few years that threaten humanity: HIV, swine flu, SARS, Ebola, Zika, MERS and now COVID-19. Unfortunately, the only drugs that can combat a viral pandemic are antiviral therapies – although most antivirals don’t work very well – or vaccines, most of which work incredibly well.
Vaccines for newly emerging viral diseases can take years to develop and not every virus is amenable to vaccine development.
Indeed, while many of us are very hopeful, it’s unlikely that a vaccine will be developed for COVID-19. Most viral epidemics or pandemics run their course and eventually extinguish themselves after a few months to a few years – long before an antiviral medication or a vaccine is developed.
In many cases, our only options to fight a viral pandemic involve challenging public health measures. Consider the testing, quarantining, physical distancing and travel restrictions that we have all experienced in the last few months.