Top scientist who battled COVID-19 says 'we will never ... live normally' without vaccine

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A top scientist who fell ill with COVID-19 says the world will never return to normal unless there is a coronavirus vaccine.

Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, was hospitalized for a week after contracting the virus in March. He has been recovering at home since being released from the hospital.

The virologist, who led the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS between 1995 and 2008, said in a recent interview that a vaccine is needed for any type of normalacy in daily life.

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"Without a coronavirus vaccine, we will never be able to live normally again. The only real exit strategy from this crisis is a vaccine that can be rolled out worldwide," Piot, one of the discoverers of the Ebola virus, said in an interview with Belgian publication Knack that was translated by Science Magazine.

"That means producing billions of doses of it, which, in itself, is a huge challenge in terms of manufacturing logistics. And despite the efforts, it is still not even certain that developing a COVID-19 vaccine is possible," he added.

Last week, a World Health Organization (WHO) official also warned there may never be a coronavirus vaccine.

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Piot also questioned the conventional wisdom that COVID-19 is innocuous for the vast majority of people who get infected but never show symptoms.

"The story gets more complicated. Many people will be left with chronic kidney and heart problems. Even their neural system is disrupted," he explained. "There will be hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, possibly more, who will need treatments such as renal dialysis for the rest of their lives. The more we learn about the coronavirus, the more questions arise."

The scientist also warned about the perils of the anti-vaxxer movement.

"Today there’s also the paradox that some people who owe their lives to vaccines no longer want their children to be vaccinated. That could become a problem if we want to roll out a vaccine against the coronavirus, because if too many people refuse to join, we will never get the pandemic under control," Piot said.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 1,340,643 people in the U.S. infected with coronavirus; in addition, at least 79,935 people have died from it.