When it comes to ending the COVID-19 crisis, our experience beating back HIV/AIDS can teach us much. Above all, it was never clear during that earlier pandemic whether we could count on an eventual vaccine to be part of the solution. In our efforts to overcome today’s crisis, we would be remiss to forget this lesson.
During the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis, I ran a laboratory at Harvard University, where we were researching the virology of the disease. Early observations showed that an HIV infection elicits an unprecedentedly strong response from both arms of the immune system – the B cells and the T cells. The body detects the threat posed by the disease, and it fights back as hard as it can, but fails. How, I wondered, can we create a vaccine that outdoes the best our bodies can do? It has now been 35 years, and we still don’t have an answer.
Originally published on Project Syndicate (July 26, 2020)