The WHO has been very active in providing guidance and blueprints. Another thing that has happened since the West African Ebola outbreak has been the formation of CEPI. It is a non-governmental foundation that is funded by the Gates Foundation and also backed by the Wellcome Trust and by a number of nations who have made contributions.

CEPI is working on vaccines for diseases that have pandemic potential. It has been doing that for several years for Nipah virus and chikungunya and a number of other viruses. And they have also begun to rapidly look at vaccines for Covid-19.

What are the practical and ethical concerns for such human vaccine trials?

There should be preclinical studies, often starting in mice and then nonhuman primates, to make sure the vaccines will stimulate immunity and that they are safe in the animals. Then we move through successive Phase 1, 2 and 3 studies. The participants will need to be comprehensively informed about the risks of the vaccine and will need to commit to careful monitoring of reactions to the vaccines. The participants will also need to be followed carefully for adverse events that might occur in the year after vaccine administration.

As with therapeutic trials, the people who are enrolled in the studies, particularly the Phase 1 trials, need to understand what is being done and what are the potential risks and what are we going to do about mitigating the risk, because this is not a risk-free situation.

With regard to the Covid-19 pandemic, where are we heading?

Clinically, we are learning how to manage patients and how to predict which patients will get more severely ill. And hopefully, as we do our therapeutic trials, we will find new therapeutic agents.

Vaccine development is also on track. We’re hoping that within the period of a year to 18 months we’ll have a vaccine that we can give to people in the general population. That is a much accelerated timeline.

But we also need to learn more about the impact of various social distancing measures. The economic implications of Covid-19 are enormous: We can’t continue to live isolated with everything locked down forever. So we will need to gather information about how we can reopen society in the safest and most effective manner.

And we need to improve the robustness of our global health systems. The recent move by President Trump to withdraw US funding for the WHO is a real concern, as well. The WHO is a leader in providing guidance for low- and middle-income countries as they navigate the pandemic. This is a global pandemic. The WHO has an important role.

One thing that has been somewhat frustrating for me about the Covid-19 outbreak is that there has been reluctance by some politicians to listen to what the scientists are saying and to respect them for offering the best scientific information that is available. There should be a constructive and respectful dialogue between scientists and politicians.

Will we learn any lessons from the pandemic? Will our lives be different 10 years from now than they are currently? They will in some ways, but one of the things I have seen frequently in my long career is that people soon forget.

When I was a pediatric resident almost 50 years ago, I stood by the bed of a child who died of bacterial meningitis. And I couldn’t do anything. Now we have vaccines and this disease is gone. But now I hear people saying they don’t want their children to be vaccinated against meningitis because they no longer see the disease.

Well, diseases are an airplane ride away, as we know with Covid-19.