We also need to celebrate our successes despite the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid-19 vaccine is truly a medical miracle. A new report by the Commonwealth Fund says the Covid-19 vaccine has prevented him from more than 18 million additional hospitalizations and more than 3 million more deaths from him in the United States alone.
However, the success of these vaccines is largely due to long-term investments in basic biomedical research and vaccine technology through foundations such as the National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
A Covid-19 vaccine would not have been sequenced, developed and approved in record time without more than 40 years of dedicated investment in HIV research by the United States. For decades, HIV researchers have become better at understanding the intricacies of the immune system, mapping in detail how HIV enters cells, replicates, and is targeted by drugs. We were able to identify possible viral weaknesses.Both HIV and SARS-CoV-2 are RNA viruses and can mutate quickly, making interventions difficult to develop.
The adenoviral vector technology used in AstraZeneca’s vaccine, as well as the mRNA technology used in Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, have evolved from previous HIV research. In 2004, Merck worked with his NIAID-funded researchers to create a vaccine using an attenuated cold virus called adenovirus 5. Learn genes and fend off them and prepare for future encounters with real HIV. But the trial ended abruptly after early results showed that the vaccine provided little protection and made men more susceptible to HIV. However, many other companies, including AstraZeneca, are building on this research to develop vaccines using different cold viruses.
This is why as emergencies and crises unfold, it is so important to take a long-term, proactive approach to investing in public health rather than a passive approach. Health protection programs such as immunization saved an average of $34 for every $1 spent, according to a systematic review of 52 interventions published in and Community Health. This has proven true in the case of the Covid-19 vaccine, saving $1.15 trillion in healthcare costs that would otherwise have been incurred.
Despite the heavy investment early in the pandemic, federal funding is following a familiar boom-bust cycle. Additional Covid-19 funding has stalled in Congress since March of this year. This is despite two new reports from Democrats in Congress. It clarified the role of the Strategic National Stockpile, modernized the nation’s outdated data and surveillance systems, and recommended several years of increased federal funding for public health.
It also invested heavily in developing novel combinations of broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies that could potentially neutralize all known SARS-CoV-2 variants and other related coronaviruses, including SARS-1 and MERS. There is also an opportunity to invest in Like vaccines, these antibodies have the potential to save millions of lives, and could eventually be combined with highly active antiviral drugs to end the pandemic. And without the dedicated investment that HIV research has received, these treatments would remain a mere possibility.
Consistent public health funding saves lives and prepares us for the myriad virological threats we face in the future.