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Elpidoforos Sotiriadis: Research on the production of vaccines takes at least 3-4 years

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Elpidoforos Sotiriadis: Research on the production of vaccines takes at least 3-4 years

One of the first advocates of the use of a mask, but not as a mandatory measure, the doctor with a master's degree in Epidemiology and a doctorate in Environmental and Occupational Health from the Harvard University School of Public Health, Elpidoforos Sotiriadis, spoke to “P” and herd immunity. In his interview, Dr. Sotiriadis answers the basic concerns of the citizens about the pandemic and explains why he disagrees with the measures taken by the government.

Elpidoforos Sotiriadis: Research on the production of vaccines takes at least 3-4 years

We are in a hurry for a vaccine

– What is your opinion about the coronavirus vaccines that are in the third stage of clinical trials?

All of these vaccines use a new technological approach, with the delivery of genetic material through formulations. This new technology certainly raises questions about its safety and effectiveness, both in terms of short-term and potential long-term side effects. It is true that several studies have been done on animals with these vaccines and they have brought to the surface some side effects.

– Some argue that it takes years to create the necessary vaccines to make the necessary studies. Is it possible to make an effective vaccine in a few months?

Vaccine production research takes at least 3-4 years or more. The first two phases of the preparation of the new vaccines can be shortened with the new technology. But the third phase of testing, which is the most important for evaluating the vaccine in a larger number of people, takes longer. Various scientists and companies claim that by involving more volunteers they can earn this time. I personally believe that this is not satisfactory and that the third phase should take at least a year to be able to observe the side effects of the vaccine and determine whether it is capable of preventing coronavirus infection and infection.

Immunity through disease

– You talk about the possibility of infections but not about the immunity of the herd. Do you think it is not related to the vaccine?

Of course, the use of a vaccine is also associated with the development of immunity in vaccinated people. But it should be noted that it is one thing to develop antibodies in a person who has been vaccinated, and another to have the chance of becoming infected and developing a coronavirus infection. These two are not self-evident and should be evaluated in terms of vaccine behavior in the population. Some scientists view the use of the vaccine as a method of artificial immunity in the population, but this phenomenon is worth discussing and evaluating in relation to natural infection. Natural disease creates better immunity than the vaccine. We know that children develop immunity and satisfactory antibodies without affecting their health. So by exposing people to the virus who will not have serious effects we can increase the rate of immunity in the population and protect vulnerable groups. After all, the chances of transmitting the virus from young children to adults are very low.

– You have mentioned that “for the past three months the coronavirus curve in Cyprus has receded dramatically”. So you think there was no relapse of the virus?

Based on my own assessment, I do not believe that there was an epidemiological outbreak of the virus during the summer. Interpreting the data we conclude that there was a significant reduction in the spread of the virus. Personally, I do not see the reason why measures were taken in mid-August, when the behavior of the virus did not have any significant epidemic outbreak. The morbidity of the virus was infinitesimal, while the number of positive samples detected in the population was below 5 per 1000 tests.

Aggressive “flu”

– As stated by the Minister of Health, the measures were taken precautionarily to avoid the outbreak of the virus in winter. What is your opinion?

Personally, I think it was a wrong approach to take stricter measures during the summer. In view of the coming winter, the population should be allowed to rest and gather strength. Taking these measures in the summer was a wrong decision, which was not justified based on the epidemiological profile of the country. As we see every year an outbreak of the flu virus in winter so we expect that the coronavirus will have a similar picture.

– Do you think that the coronavirus is a simple flu?

The epidemiological data available to us today document that the behavior of the coronavirus in the population is similar to that of the influenza virus. The coronavirus behaves similarly to a slightly more aggressive strain of influenza virus, based on both mortality and morbidity of the virus.

Mask… whoever wants

– From what I understand, you disagree with the use of a mask, but what happens in the case of schools?

Personally, I would say that the obligatory use of a mask in schools is not necessary. I'm afraid it will create bigger problems than it's supposed to solve. The use of a mask could be allowed on a voluntary basis. In vulnerable groups, the use of a mask may be justified, but I do not see why it should be mandatory for everyone at a time when we know that it creates significant problems. The use of a mask will affect both the mental and social well-being of children. A measure that affects two of the three dimensions of health especially in children I think should not exist.

– Based on the recommendations of the WHO, the mandatory use of a mask in schools was imposed on children over 12 years old. So we are not talking about children but teenagers who are able to manage the issue better.

The WHO recommendation does not refer to the mandatory use of a mask. Personally, I believe that especially in adolescence, the socialization of children is important and therefore their social well-being will be affected.

Unsatisfactory control

– Now let's go to the issue of control at airports. You have stated in the past that most cases come from airports. So, you think that the measures at the airports are not enough?

My view is that there was no satisfactory control in the early stages of the summer. When the measures were withdrawn and the airports opened, all this categorization of countries led to an increase in imported cases. I had suggested that all those who enter Cyprus necessarily have a negative test and that no countries be categorized. I think this approach is safer to prevent the spread of the virus in the community but also to help the economy. I also believe that the number of people who would be negative and then positive would be very small, and possibly much smaller than the positive samples introduced in Cyprus. Using the test as a measure of entry would lead to fewer infections with the virus than has been done to date.

– But so there is no risk of creating large chains of virus spread in the community?

The causal correlation between the reported incidents is not substantiated. It should be borne in mind that the test performed has an error rate of around 5-10%, while many of these people who are positive do not transmit the virus. Therefore, to assume that one person is associated with transmission to 10, 20, 30 others, is risky. The causal correlation of contacts is done by genetic identification and not by a simple test. Epidemiological studies use the genetic identification of the virus to see if one person has transmitted the virus to another.

– Regarding the tests that are done, do you think that in Cyprus we do too many tests?

This test used has its own capabilities but also limitations. To assess the spread of the virus in the population we need to do the so-called seroepidemiological studies, which are based on the presence of antibodies in people who may have come in contact with the virus. These studies have not been done in Cyprus and it is a pity that the PCR test is used to estimate the spread of the virus in the population. In my opinion the Ministry of Health has wasted a lot of resources doing this test with a convenient sample without being able to use it to assess the actual spread of the virus in the population. It would be scientifically appropriate to perform a random sampling on a sample of the population using the antibody test. In addition, studies currently being performed to evaluate the safety of vaccines are based on antibody testing.

They called me and I went

– Why did you participate in the event for the mandatory masks?

I was invited as a speaker at this event and I accepted the invitation because I agree with the requirement to withdraw the measure of compulsory mask use in schools by children. I find it uneducative for children to wear masks and for teachers to be able to remove them under certain conditions.

– Do you agree with the criminal prosecution for non-compliance with the measures?

I have repeatedly stressed that for the measures of house arrest, compulsory use of a mask, fines for coercion in compliance and anything else that is institutionalized in a dictatorial way, I find the exact opposite. I believe that in order to tackle this problem, the government should cultivate the maximum possible social consensus and cooperation. I believe that criminal prosecutions will have the opposite effect.

God has the last word

– Is there a theological or psychological approach to the virus?

Psychology is an important factor in tackling the coronavirus epidemic. I also believe that everything has a theological essence. It may be said that the ruler of the world is the devil, but we believe that Christ overcame death and the devil. Therefore, no matter what happens, God always has the last word.

Source: politis.com.cy

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