NIH Director: 'This Is a Fairly Well-Behaved Virus'

By Susan Jones | July 2, 2020 | 12:03pm EDT
NIH DIrector Dr. Francis Collins holds a model of the coronavirus. (Photo: Screen capture)
NIH DIrector Dr. Francis Collins holds a model of the coronavirus. (Photo: Screen capture)

( - COVID-19 is a "fairly well-behaved virus" that may be quelled with an eventual vaccine, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told Congress on Thursday.

"This particular virus, which is an RNA virus, does not have a rapid mutation rate," Collins explained:

It's not like influenza or HIV, where you know you're going to have...a really tough time getting a vaccine to work or to stay effective. But it does change over time.

There is at least one significant variant in the virus that's already happened since it originally appeared about six months ago that may have made it somewhat more infectious than the original strain coming out of Wuhan. We're not absolutely sure. That looks like that might be the case.

The good news is that those variants that we've detected do not seem to be those that would interfere with the effectiveness of the current vaccines that are being designed and tested, nor with the monoclonal antibody strategies that are also being attempted, but we're going to watch that very carefully.

A big question that we will all have is whether this is a circumstance, where once vaccinated, you are basically protected for life, or whether over the course of time, this virus will change its code enough that you will need to have a booster that's slightly better in its design for whatever it is this turns into next.

We don't know the answer to that, but I think the good news is, this is not like HIV, this is not like influenza, it's a fairly well-behaved virus that we think we ought to be able to tackle effectively with a vaccine strategy.

Collins was among the witnesses testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

He spoke on a day when a record number of new COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States -- 50,655 on July 1, according to the latest data from the Johns Hopkins tracker. The number of reported deaths on July 1 was 645.

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