« The Weeds

Who started Covid?

2021-06-25

Matt is joined by deputy editor of New York magazine and author David Wallace-Wells to talk about the new evidence for the so-called "Lab-Leak hypothesis," and about the possible origins of Covid-19. Wallace-Wells introduces the new research done by Jesse D. Bloom on possible missing tranches of genetic sequencing data from Chinese servers, and the discussion turns to what we know, don't know, can't know, and might know about the origins of Covid . . . and where that leaves us for the next pandemic.

Resources:

"Understanding the Origins of SARS-CoV-2" (June 14; Fred Hutch News Service)

"Recovery of deleted deep sequencing data sheds more light on the early Wuhan SARS-CoV-2 pandemic" by Jesse D. Bloom (June 22)

"Scientist Opens Up About His Early Email to Fauci on Virus Origins" by James Gorman and Carl Zimmer (June 14, New York Times)

"The Lab-Leak Hypothesis" by Nicholson Baker (Jan. 4, New York magazine)

"Could COVID-19 Have Escaped from a Lab?" by Rowan Jacobsen (Sept. 9, 2020, Boston Magazine)

"We Had the Vaccine the Whole Time" by David Wallace-Wells (Dec. 7, 2020, New York magazine)

"The Implications of the Lab-Leak Hypothesis" by David Wallace-Wells (June 12, New York magazine)

Guest:

David Wallace-Wells (@dwallacewells), Deputy Editor, New York magazine; author, The Uninhabitable Earth

Host:

Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Slowboring.com

Credits:

Erikk Geannikis, Editor and Producer

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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by price ratings and even chat with wine exports for recommendations, it's the world's largest wine stores delivered to your door, get fifty dollars off your first order. By going to wind outcome, Slash Spotify terms, apply. What do you know them? Some needs on the bucks media, Pakistan. What my just Denny is David Wallace Wells he's an editor at large in your bag, seen out of the excellent book the uninhabitable earth, but we are not going to talk about that so much other. We will talk about the people who inhabit the earth. Welcome to the show David thanks is going to be our show, I guess you'd say on time the surface on collar
That's so how we wanted to talk about the lab leak theory, hypothesis, and that the evidence for it and it is simply there's been some some news on this front over the past couple days, even since we but the show the Bloom lab has. As I understand it, there saying that there was data about the sort of earliest genetic sequencing of but the new corona virus that has been sort of mysteriously deleted from chinese servers. zat about right, that's just about the others are gonna Jesse Bloom who works at Fred, Hutch in Washington, who sort of drew on some level amateur out her, like internet sleuthing, figured out tat. He could access some genetic data. have been deleted from some public databases that essentially amount to a map of drivers, cases problem
in January of twenty Twond, maybe a little earlier- that's not entirely clear and this is his analysis of what he was able to retrieve is a little inconclusive. It certainly doesn't wait in any direct are obvious I too am genetic manipulation or the alternate explanation, a sort of zoonotic limp link for badly from animals, but shows that there was some amount of interference Rob going on at some level of the chinese scientific community whereby some information about the early spread of the disease that had been made public was then removed, and then you know, when pressed by scientists, investigators elsewhere in the world and by the view I show the relevant chinese authorities said that this data had never been collected and there was no way to get at it, so the sort of best data, thence that anybody trying to look into the origin of the disease could hope for exist. It turns out. It seems that it did exist
and indeed was made public and then way. So you know it's instance of the sort of bad behaviour the chinese authorities here, although personally, I am not sure how meaningfully it adds to the case for a lovely white any but would be sort of convenience from a journalistic standpoint is if, when he got the data, it was like a ha here's she's in paying secret confession, and now we the truth. It turns out. You know when he looked at it. I guess the conclusion was this shows it was spreading probably a little bit before the first reports from the seafood market, but I think we already knew that Ray. I write, realize in recent months running, but does that not everybody knows we knew that, but I think it's been pretty clearly established that that seafood market were the first outbreak came and the initial media coverage was like. I came from this fish market that that is not
The king s army. In fact, there have been cases elsewhere in the world outside of China that predate that that outbreak. So, but as with everything else for this pandemic, there's something levels of knowledge and authority. So what you know what is has appeared on the front page of the New York Times is very different from what someone who might be following an incredibly intricate are candidates on twitter about. It knows so you know, quoting quote: we could quote, knew that the disease spreading before the first officially acknowledged cases, but this is to some degree in a confirmation that more significantly, I think it's a confirmation that there was you a meaningful genetic sequencing of those other cases done and for some reason, possibly nefarious, possibly what qualifies as innocent in this context. You know that information was removed from the public eye, so we don't really know what it says what it means. The truth is, I think, that to the extended
Jesse Bloom is able to actually analyze the sequence ass. He pulled down this cached version of the internet. You could make a case that information, lives up with the theory that the disease was carried to hunt traveller, not by virus hunters, but its again, it is far from defended. It one of many many sometimes contradictory.
circumstances bits of effort has that have been put together around this question over the last year, or so I would you have is a pretty clear. This is one of the most clear cut, but definitely not the first instances where we can see that that the chinese government is being swirling about the whole situation which, if the country we were talking about, wasn't China right. If it was like some really little country that was being wearied and not forthcoming, and deleting staff are not selling. Scientists said, I think you would say, on a policy level than its eye, what we just gotta becoming Lena these guys harder at the difficulty. I think, obviously, is that China's like a really big powerful country and it's not obvious that you can make them be cooperative and they just haven't been right. I mean so a lot of the the sort of discussion around. This seems a little deadlock that, like the W h
send Corey. I think most people think that was not super adequate, but then it's like what do you do when I did not. I like magic wand in which China become super forthcoming, they're, not forthcoming general, like just about stuff it is not a highly transparent situation over there. So it's it's hard for me to know exactly what to conclude from this. Like you, you shouldn't delete genomic down off of public servers and then lie to the world about it. What what upshot of this paper in particular in that context, You know a few weeks ago. It might have been a plausible thing to say: well, ok, China sort of stonewalling, but really, ultimately, what's the point of pressuring when the data that we're looking for. Guy isn't really there like a vain deleted, those databases their deleted. Information you know is removed from their servers. It's no longer there if you know, even if we could get them too
allow the sort of investigation that were hoping for. Probably we come up empty handed anyway, analysis of of the case at hand. This suggests that there may be some sort of in between evidence, data that is find a ball made. we would be more easily find a ball with the aid of the chinese government's, but may even be find a ball with just one loan researcher working his downtime everyone Jim, and I think that means that in others, some chance that we get some more meaningful new information about the origin of the virus, which is on some level. For them to me, because someone who's followed this relatively closely for while I've been for months now pretty certain myself that by we're never gonna now and in the rest of our lives, we're gonna be spent in part debating the origins of this disease in much the way tat we ve been debating them for the past few months and since then, sort of, like you know those debates. So happy
You are so excited to be a part of. So I'm satisfying to be part of it was a sort of distressing review of our future. I think it's possible now to think that we might be able to find some more stuff out some way, although I dont know exactly How likely that is or how definitive that proof will be, and I just gets notable that in the late dangers of the Trump presidency, there was quite a lot of energy that seems to have been spent both in this. department and of National Security Council, essentially working through the intelligence, we need you to try to make the case. This did come from eleven of the responsibility for the pandemic therefore lay with China, and they didn't really. come up with anything that, like the amateur researchers on Twitter having come up with themselves. So if you're, you know it's not like the american the community is the end I'll be all your leg. Obviously, therefore, follow people here you have limited horizons unlimited capacities to, but if you're deploying something like the fall apparatus of the american entails,
community to investigate the origins of the universe and all you can come up with is facts that you know a few outside our researchers, stone, avid posting on medium and on Twitter. For me, although an encouraging sign for the lovely criterion, and probably, I would say an argument and to take a less seriously relevant more, but you give you haven't you been following this pretty causing for for a while, and you know one thing that I see, people sort of argue about gas is clearly been a change in the tone of the media coverage of this question about sending their debt. I see disagreement about his. Has anything changed factually you, I didn't information, come to light between today and where we were a year ago. That is sort of why this has become a more respectable thing to talk about, or is it just a kind of
changing conventional wisdom in the press. You don't my sense is basically nothing meaningful has changed. I ve been a few little bits of circumstantial evidence. We had on reports, illnesses at the one institute for three reasons: there is apparently went to the hospital late last fall that wasn't and actually had been sort of publicly known that was published in a much more dramatic way by the Wall Street Journal a couple of months ago, in other words, this cash, it turns out she emails putting one exchange with a recession in Christian Andersen who had been among the most vocal critics of the lovely hypothesis in the spring of when you twenty, in which Anderson set at first, that he suspected that their there have been some manipulation of the virus or at least that it was called what inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theories, is the phrase used and then shortly thereafter been observed more publicly reversed himself and send it in fact
the sequencing analysis he had done showed that it was. It was quite consistent with expectation with his expectations revolutionary and then there's the this new set of data that, He bloom dug up just in the last couple of days, so there those three sort of like small pieces of evidence that have emerged, but in the big picture, the case is very much the case that was not just made in you know the Nicholson. Baker story that I did it and published at New York on published in January, not just essentially the same as the case that was made in a Boston magazine profile of one of these sort of renegade researchers Alina Chan, but essentially that big It was made by Are you dig in a medium posts? Last April? I think basically, it amounts do we have not found an intermediate animal host. A few of the most plausible explanation for what animals might have allowed. This virus to jump from bastard humans have proven to be those theories of Paul spoke to them. So we don't.
plausible defensible, clear arguments for how it got from back to humans and There is a strange fact that you know that populations don't live really anywhere near war on any. One, is the place where there is this institute that is devoted in large part to the research of viruses of this kind. We know that a store of any of these viruses are fragments of these viruses in that institute and we There have been some concerns about lab safety there, as, as there have been not to cast versions on chinese research, as there have been many level by by research facilities all around the world, including in the United States, so for these reasons, there's a sort of like up who knows I'm sorry
so I M showing you know. You know I think, there's different did this evil ways you can talk about this right now. You one phrase that not just last week but with a lot of things related to covered has ricocheted around. Is the idea of no evidence for something or other, and I do think that that's like right way to think about the world fry its? I knew you sort of me just sort of go through and why are what is the most plausible kind of theories out their ride him in what should your best gas be, and the first thing which I think is maybe right is you hear a new virus has arisen in the human population. Your best guess is crossed over from some animal somewhere like that's where most viruses come from it. That's
like what scientists will tell you. You hear a new outbreak, you assume there's an animal involved, but then you look great sear like what? What what animal is it right and it's as we have gone longer without identifying and animal that should change here? Your view, I think, like how confident you are about this zoonotic cross everything, and then you have the background facts right. It's related to bat. Corona viruses there a lot of bad in the world. They don't happen to be a lot of bats it will on. But there is this virus lab at and they said anything. So you know you can't go if you're the district attorney like you can go to court, but an argument
that for good reason in the criminal justice system, but also as journalists and as human beings skin out, we have to look at these things. Wait. You start with maybe a strong presumption that new viruses come from animals, but that that should change at a certain point when you can't identified animal when the animals it comes from. aren't in the place. You know where it's happening so like it's completely circumstantial on some level, but also its not. I think it's like it's not on reason all right, I mean just like when people first started saying I mean I I think I was it at box and we made a great video about markets and pengelly ends in this,
a thing, and it was a good videos very informative, and it was like totally reasonable hypothesis, but there was never like. We never had the smoking penguin bright and now we know bore and like we do eat. It appears that there is no such Bengal and, and that it seems to me is a kind of evidence. Yeah I mean I would say, as if circumstantial but a lot. You know a lot depends on what sort of priors you carry into this conversation. So you know, defenders Is it not a hypothesis would say as you did it start, we know of many more viruses it have jumped from animals to humans to have come out of it. In fact, we obviously don't know of any that have come out of a lad, and so your Your baseline of expectations should always be that's what happened here. Unless we see very, very clear evidence of an alternate theory now lovely. I'm partisans would say ok, but we ve, I ve been doing this kind of research with viruses, for you know a decade or to win.
doing a globally in a sort of limited ways. We should expect that it would have produced a large number of leaks to this point, but people who ve been thinking about these for a long time have been warning, But precisely this kind of leak essentially this sort of research was first undertaken and, as a result, it deserves to be taken seriously as a plausible account of the emergence of the. these personally I've- you know, I don't know exactly how to adjudicate- these matters. It seems to me totally plausible that way would be worrying about lab safety lab security. We should be taking seriously the fact of our disease emerging from allow lab, when we are essentially engineering diseases in their lives, and we know from how much longer sleepers of risk history, the lab leagues, happen. All the time of accidents happen all the time. On the other hand, you know I don't think Looking at the jack sequence of the disease has proven in any definitive or in our
your way that decisive, too, it is built such a or lives in such a way that it couldn't have come about, naturally, like demons ring at these at these gene sequences- and you can't even Ok, we don't of intermediate hearse. That's it! That's a piece of evidence, boats, also piece of evidence that at best, we consider curious yours of this disease. We haven't seen before They are also not inconsistent with what we know about how viruses, above the thing that really strikes about the evolution of the narrative, which is to say the fact mainstream media, at least I think the american public as a whole is now More open to uncomfortable talking about the possibility of a lovely garden of the disease than it was just six months ago is the extent to which that Narrative has really been shaped by a small group of actors. in the trunk administration and in those national security teams who are you know.
Undeniably like China. Yes, and have an interest in not just in, I think, very importantly, not improving. Came out of a lab? I basically think, but I don't expect that is going to happen any time soon, but here listed in using that ambiguity as us a rhetorical cudgel with which to shape in public opinion and possibly american foreign policy and it notable in that sense. This is like the one area of agreement between the administration. The bite illustration is that, like China is bad and given that the people who are handling this, and we can talk a little bit about exactly how that narrative was serve cooked up in it in there, administration in particular, given how much time has been trying to put it. other arguments, as I said earlier, is you know really striking to me the date they ve? They basically not made a stronger case than I have from us at best, a quite patchy, circumstantial argument, which may indeed proof
accurate. I dont want to dismiss the loudly hypothesis out of hand, but we we have been told that it's ok to think this by people who have a very clear vested interest in using the hypothesis to prosecute a more hostile american approach to change our policy. Yet, let's take a break in and then I want to return to this question of who wants this to be It feels like you, don't ever of hours in the day to get everything done, might because you're missing out on three of them were those two hours up how he fell into a deep dark abyss that opens up. One switch between workers. those three hours to all the productive time. We miss out on thanks to at home distractions, disorganization fatigue. It's no wonder the days future work should work with clear up, it does look up, is a flexible productivity platform, the wings or you work at one place. That's all you chats apps docks and ass one centralized like mission control companies like Goober and Google use click up to make their days more productive, managed projects, people and goals more effectively.
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Ultra wide ban available only in parts of select cities, five g nation wide available in twenty seven hundred plus cities offers available would select trade in and business unlimited plan terms apply limited time offer shop in store safely in mainstream politics right. This is mostly played as a debate about China by going back to Tom Cottons sort of original lab staff to the quorum called debunking things of him that were done in the press.
MIKE Peo in the state department. Did a lot of work on this. Joe Biden, really back in last February, was sort of positioning himself as he was gonna, be the true tough on China, tough on pandemic sky and that that has carried through Willie as a foreign policy question right, the idea being that it somehow. That is China's fault if this came from a lab or that China's culpable for not being forthcoming about it. But then this is other debate right which is really about laboratory rather than about China, and I think in the scientific community. That's the sort of the hot potato right on both sides that you have one group of people who have been arguing for
years that is dangerous to be doing, is, is called gain of function, research tried, but by taking viruses and doing experiments on them, making them than bigger and better, and you can find articles in the Atlantic and vocs elsewhere before the pandemic by people saying like air. We really should do this, and then you have another community of scientists who I do think that we should hear us and they are really arguing about by science and funding and an lab safety not about China, and you know that subject sort of cuts on both sides. Right I mean there are people who are involved in Ghana function. Research have a vested interest in not having people be freaked out that they're kind of work caused this pandemic and people who have been very concerned about this would like to
leverage public concerns to to get regulatory changes. You I mean, I would say, just as a first really being free observation like this penned ethic has been really awful yeah new noontime against millions. People have died, you know, Tens of millions of people have been infected suffering the account he's of the world have struggled enormously much of it helping world is only at most halfway through it and we're just gonna see the toll of this disease mounds of you're too. It is one of the most catastrophic world historical events of my lifetime, like what is responsible for this happening. is an incredibly important question Its own terms is also important to the extent that we want to think about adjudicating responsibility and guilt to to figure out exactly what
on and its thirdly, important to try to engineer some kind of protocol or policy response or new research regime that could, in theory, protect us in the future, whether it came from Seaford Market and you know essentially destabilizing of ecosystems and were enough or whether, LAB or, however, it came about we want. We want to think about how to prevent this from happening, because it is like unbelief dad, this disease has unleashed, and on that point, when we think about the possibility that it came out of a lab, I think, really important to understand that it's not just a question to consider sort of independent of geopolitics, but that the I had that we're talking about is in some sense a part of it american research apparatus. It is not, you know a holy on subsidiary of the National Institute of Health,
run in overseeing directly by tony fancy, but it is a part of a research project which is American in its origin and american design and was funded degree by american money and I'm sort of supervised to some degree by american scientist, so this whole project, which you refer to gain a function there's a sort of an interesting back and forth and how she had withdrawn Paul. A few months, oh I'm, in what she was heard, splitting hairs over what Dana function means, but in general idea of gather. Viruses in the wild, storing them in centralized locations where you can at least study them and possibly sort of up their evolution either. Just by making them they produce over and over again or in more directly through genetic manipulation to see whether diseases out there in the world could lead to humans and could become more infectious. That whole project is a core and american one, and you know whether there was some safety oversight and lab leak
will harm in theory. There is that their chinese questions there and, in theory, a cover up that there might have followed from that, would also be of geopolitical importance but terms of like what is the original sin of a lab leak. Origin actually not chinese its american and I think in that sense on those pushing to bewail? China are being, at the very least, a little simplistic. We can say- what about the way the their blockading no research investigation, but Poor sin might just easily have happened. you know you and see, or in Texas, or a number of other labs. There are doing similar work all around the world are inspired by the direction of american scientists, and this is
point, because you know what we think about, I think you somebody who's not aware of the american side of this kind of looked like well, we had these. I trump China Hawks on the one hand, trying to genoa something, but then we had like, like the good scientists, why do we and we trust the science and there are saying no, no, no ride like doktor way about it up? What one of the most interesting things about the New York peace is that you know it went into dubbed in the sort of back and for us
before the pandemic, are there were happening at the edge where people were like air which brought him stop funding this research at the lab, and then they decided no like where we're gonna go ahead with it, and that means that you know important. American scientists are implicated in the question of like the one in situ. Morality and its safety and its thing they're. So, just as I mean we know, I don't take my palm pale. Like really cares too much about scientific facts. He has a foreign policy yeah, but also we have an Asian and this company. The Eco health alliance and other people who were involved in this, they are legitimately experts in this field, so they are the kind of
boy. You would speak too, but they are also involve. That's there's, not just Americans over here and we're talking about something in in China is actually an international project with American Funding the disagreements among american scientists and ultimately a decision that, like yes, we want in on this some asian bad virus project and its you know. I don't know I mean you can't you can't totally dismiss everything everybody says just because they have some kind of conflict of interest in it, but I feel like me most of the writing on this last year. It seemed a little naive to me in retrospect, Emmy, knowing what I understand now about sort of the american sides, community's involvement, but this whole Tommy you, I mean, I pity Jack was the head of the eager health alliances sort of come to be seen. At least I by those who are worried about the possibility of a lovely has as a sort of an arch Dylan here, and he is
the person who for a funnel american money to the wanted to do but is also a person who coordinated the serpent response early on in the pandemic to say that the Those came from animals and he also was on the debate. You investigative team that went over to China and sort of failed to find anything, an answer. If said, we were quite sure this is, genetic and origin. Only to have that the head of the tribunal shook him unsafe. Actually we're not relish shipwrecked investigation. Didn't didn't, give us enough to say that and of course, how she is involved in this as well, because his ear he serve oversaw alot of allowing this funding I had really interesting conversation a week or two ago with Mark Lipsitz, Harvard epidemiologist who's been among the most prominent public health communicators throughout the pandemic and happens to also have led a crusade again This kind of research going back about a decade and is sort of single handedly, responsible or or with a couple of other.
partners for making this a real concern. In the end, the Obama administration such that there was a pause on funding for it for a while, and then it was spent. the funding was resumed undertone after having in after eight they started. it had at some other, moreover, site on the grand process and He said if you things that were really to fascinate into me, and one was that he didn't think that we have to worry about it. We shouldn't Judah Kate, the question of research being valuable or dangerous in terms of risk he's. We should really. This benefits and use even putting aside whether doing gains research on these kinds of viruses reference a real pandemic risk. He said the benefits are actually quite small. The advocates woman you that we need to do this work in order to prepare seen or understand what pandemic threats we face going forward. He said, actually all that work might be better done, not by adapting viruses so that they can thrive in humans, but in fact adapting them suddenly.
DR and mice, and then doing the work in mice, because any time to develop vaccine you're doing it actually nonhuman animals first knowledge, humans and so were taken this completely unnecessary risk, but using more importantly, all of the benefits that we can get out of this kind of irish research. Actually, we can get out of it without me, in these viruses jumped into humans are making them more transmissible. Humans are virulent Germans, which is what the research is doing that to me. It was a quite persuasive and compelling point and he was also quite clear about how sexual, the american Institutional and funding apple this was in all of this work, which is to say was pressing him about what could be done going forward in terms of pay. see responses. I kept pressing him about. The idea sort of global nuclear, Non proliferation like regime in which coordinated-
was coordinated oversight and an expectation of transparency and, if particular labs weren't cooperating than you could, cannot assume that they are bad actors, and he was saying you are. The most important thing is just being really a lot better and clearer about like what papers get published in the trafficking journals, because that is absolutely the most important driver of scientific reports, vision and funding all the world, and this is not something that China would be doing. He said, didn't mean a lot to the relevant authorities the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Europe, which was fastened to me, because the way that I came to this is up as a lay person was we assume that, especially in parts of the world where there was a kind of latent that population with the full of diseases theoretically jumped in humans. There would be a a really strong interest in doing whatever research could to sort of get a handle on that threats and
These dangers is really that serve the home of the global population You know the interest, even there's really I'm really derives from american interest. Is that local and so that we could do quite a lot to choke off that work. If we wanted to by changing our own standards over here. Let's, let's take a second breakin, and I want I want a pauper. Those points a little bit. Do you want to be the smartest fan at your watch party? Do you understand the game at a deeper level. Then you need to listen to and I fell university. A new weekly episode from the SB nation and apple show every Wednesday our team of professors at any fell university. Teach you the finer points of what we want. Crash course, at a time, will break down the. What? How and why, everything that went down that we subscribe to the US nation and up I'll show today and become the best fan, you can be. So I think this is so important because I think it's
sort of easy to assume that if we're talking about chinese virus, lab and GEO political conflict is, in the background of our concerns, that the accusation is that there was like a secret weapon being built and what's amazing about. That is that I mean somebody somewhere could be working on secret by a weapons, but like the overt purpose of this laboratory was with American Funding and american encouragement. There's like up a view in the world that has purchased in the american government that this is age, not like weapons research, that this is a good,
way to protect us against pandemics- and this seems to me to be the area- would really have learned a lot since last spring, because we we had the most successful vaccine development programme in history. Ride like actually happened in responses pandemic and as far as I can tell it did not reply at all on this. kind of research tried. So it might have sounded plausible. I mean we didn't know if I'm RNA vaccines liquid work at all for years ago, so yeah you might have thought okay. This is like really promising, but now it's
we actually like have found a good way to manufacture vaccines for new diseases, and it doesn't involve dangerous experimentation at that. To me, as like much more persuasive than anything that we serve, I learned about the actual lab. Is it we ve learned about the value of this research? and it really doesn't seem to it- doesn't seem to be their right like we don't have dash act and those people taking their victory lap, pour it psych thanks to our bad virus research we were really able to like they didn't accomplish anything. I think that if what you're hoping to do for the next pandemic is recreate the timeline, a vaccine, roll out that we have this time, you're totally right just to say you know Arabic, I was in December, but you know we don't we the modern design, their their vaccine within two days of the release of the other genetic sequence of anti virus. That's really fast! Unbelievably fastening literally, it was before we even
new for sure that there was human to human transmission of the disease, we had the vaccine before any American had been confirmed ill and weeks, but weak before any American had died. In fact, I think they are. Actually begun manufacturing the vaccine for for clinical trials before any American had died. So that's unbelievably fast. It still took from that point. You no nine or ten months before the vaccines were really called out to the public. In writing the story that that I wrote about this. It is called a thing. Come we had the vaccine our time on a lot of the people who are most excited about what this man for future vaccine development. were pointing to a virus research of this kind in the sense that they said? If we had these data bases of potential pandemic viruses, we care develop vaccines against them in the way the Medina one was was developed for the krona virus, then run through some degree of clinical testing. Even
before those viruses jump into human, so that by the time we see the first case, we don't you have the vaccine and then have to go through the process of clinical trials. We have a post clinical trial vaccine ready, what which remain, in theory, something like delivering the drug to people within a period of I don't have six or eight weeks from the time of the first case, which would have really meaningfully change that if that happened, this time would have dramatically change the course of a pandemic meant that a few thousand Americans, rather than sixty thousand Americans who died and that Differential is really significant. Now you know you have to consider. First of all, like could we ve accelerated distant trials without their research project, probably to some degree we could how significant is the preliminary work that you could do in these laboratories in order to do that clinical trial work? To begin with, I would say that unclear and then maybe more more broadly, you have.
Ask is the value of potentially saving those lives worth the risk of creating a pandemic that kills off its people. I mean you don't on some level. This is its. You know many people I think that even you ve written in a place a two or maybe I'm on the past. You said you know it's not totally clear what difference it makes when thinking about the response condemning whether it came out of a lab or not were sort of living with this, as now, but to me We have this debate about Dana Function, research going back a decade and you know, if I engaging in a debate about that, and then somebody handed me, this piece of evidence is, like, oh, In addition to all your concerns about this, in fact, a disease got out and killed like maybe ten people around the world, that would be a quite persuasion, slammed dunk argument, stewing anymore, that research. Now I don't There were likely, as I said earlier, I dont think were likely to find definitively
time soon that this disease, it in fact come out of a lad but deposit we plausible possibility that it did means that I would be more. More reluctant to do anything involving research than I might have been two years ago when I would have been met What easily persuaded that, like this summer, Toby Medical future was right around the corner. If we just mapped all of that run a virus genomes out there in the world. You know when I see this thing about the clinical trials. It frustrates me because we clearly would have done the clinical trials for vaccines than we have faster, but the view I mean it, you don't people can disagree about this, but I mean the desert and ethics view that you shouldn't deliberately expose people. It's gotta human challenge, try all again, oh so you could vaccinate people and then you got like throw virus at them and see really.
Quickly whether it works, and you know the FDA. The people involved, the medical community They seem really opposed to that answer: way phase three clinical trial works, is that you need the virus to be spreading, especially uncontrolled, in order to get
dad Ray. I have heard people say to me that, like it's weird than the or or unfortunate that we we got, the vaccines authorized faster than people had expected, but also that we have this incredible surging cases, but the reason the vaccines were authorized is because we had a surge in cases. I, if, if you vaccinate people than you, let them go about their lives and you just try to see how many of the placebo cases get sick it doesn't it doesnt work unless a lot of people are getting sick and that to me fundamentally is the problem. vaccine development as part of a pandemic response that you're, a centrally counting on failure to get your research done or best case scenario is. We could have sealed the country. You know the way Taiwan did and then we could test of acting in Brazil or something
but if you, if you want to save the whirling or less guess that's it had like, I think it's horrifying, unlike its is horrifying Jimmy that that's considered like medical ethics. But did you know if, if you want to use vaccines to prevent mass death from novel pandemics, then you need a ethical philosophy of clinical trials that lets you get the data in some more efficient way than uncontrolled spread of disease. It's weird to making that is like a naughty the ethical but we'll just site. Try to breed dangerous fires. Lands and then do a mouse experimented like that's weird or medicines were, I would say you know it's important to understand their basically to different kinds of data that your collecting clinical trials. The first is about safety and the second is about efficacy. Now these kids, you know safety is quite critical and important in the midst of a pandemic,
when the especially when there are other vaccines, horizon, I think the efficacy, data. The argument that we need to gather a lot of efficacy data is not all that strong on. You know if you can feel calm. And the injecting this into somebody's arm isn't gonna do meaningful harm. Then, some of all You know we may we may want to think about doing that to many more people before, even knowing how effective it is, and indeed in hospitals on it, we ve been side of things. We did a lot of that early in the pandemic. We gave people drugs that we didn't know would work on this I'm that they were relatively safe and in the hope that they might work actually ended up being quite disastrous, alot about thirty and back firing on and is The reason why can't you noticed brutality rates were so high in the springs. The doctors really didn't know what they were doing to treat the disease, but when you think about it, no testing a new vaccine. Those researchers,
up to about this process were very clear that most of the adverse effects have been quite quickly, often with minutes, but certainly within days, which means you can have a pretty good picture of how safe a vaccine, is very, very quickly and rolling it onto the human population and then I can observe those people who are taking a very closely because the window of time and what you need to observe them is quite small. As a result, you can get a pretty good sense quite quickly, like in the space of a few weeks, really about you know just how safe this thing is, and if you feel like it We then you might want to think about rolling out generally without an Africa's each and seeing how it works in the real world instead of having a trial. On top of all that, nobody, I spoke to you for that. Article told me that they were at all surprised. These vaccines were affected. This weirder thing and I feel like there has, I think, there's like a minor journalism by here. Where was I
nobody ever to me and the whole course You know it in the summer when I would talk to people like real experts in order what about, they will assume that the vaccines would be approved right, like their their best judgment, as scientists who had looked at the veil, data who are knowledgeable about infectious diseases. The egg- and these were not people who agree with me about this policy question by the there were no like we gotta. Do the process, but I was I gather, coma like it, doesn't work that I go yet absolutely works and that's a weird like that's it. We should think to me. It seems like it's not how I think about costs and benefits at least- and I you know, I got an email today from university, Marilyn School of medicine as I and try,
two in Rome I six year old in clinical trial, further Madonna vaccine and they set out you know thank you for filling out the form we ve got over four thousand applicants. We don't need merely that many, so getting your probably not gonna get it. America is right now, like a wash in Madeira doses, spyware, like posts scarcity of done, it's done its safety trial and okay. Why, ok, why not give my kid the shot right like? Maybe you won't work, but like how would he be worse off that way, especially those who are now in a point where you know all the restrictions and activities are coming off, even though kids can't get vaccinated, and I support that but it's all on the theory that was not a dangerous and in small children they don't need. Worrisome
bout it which is fine, but still if a vaccine was licensed, we would have him get it and why not open it up? Who are we? Who are we helping exactly? does. The argument always seems a little a little unclear to me like, like you're, trying to stop some kind of like profit seeking huckster from selling you fake vaccines above, like nobody, thinks these are fake vaccine site. There, the very real, with like solid people behind them, so I don't get young. You know. I think that there are some different standards for your research, new clinical standards for children and for adults, probably for good reason and acid in despair, the anxiety among public health people about you know the fact that the Anti backs culture is sort of focused on the threatened children and what it might mean desire to see a few. You know ugly ever our Congress even across a population, you know, even more dramatic- can happen with the blood clots, seen a couple of
was in kids, would probably really causing problems and, on the other hand, they're gonna have to do safety trials and kids point about presently controlling it out to the population at a later date, without any adjustment to the vaccine. So there is a way wish you know it is just as a bit of theater. I do think personally that We did accelerate the time one of trials this time I think, presumably go through this again in another couple years will accelerate in further. It may not be as fast as you might like, but I think you know we are short of. training ourselves to to move faster than we had before. Just in a a good thing, although you know given the human cost, if we get it even cut timeline, half let alone down to a month the country when it has been a very, very, very different place, and it may not. My main point is that you know we got it then map an insignificant, how the guy right, but it's like governance- I guess you have to think about. There's all synthetically right and it's like,
If you're going to insist on doing something dangerous, because the idea is that it could speed vaccine development, then you have to look at your checklist if more one or some other ways that we could speed vaccine development and they all have some risks associated with them. But you know, but the, but the risk of a sort of accelerating efficacy trials just seems to be obviously lower then the risk of dangerous lab experiment and swayed amid this. Yet you started this off by like mentioning how bad the pen get this week. I believe that in some ways it so like underrated like this is like, I think, like the worst thing that happened in several generations. You almost couldn't imagine any benefit that would justify. This cost were like if it was true in and credible and proven that this case out of a lab there is no argument that you can make that this research was worth doing
unless it will somehow spirits from an even worse pandemic down the road but yeah. Knowing I, you know One thing that you don't Americans, consumers get kind of parochial and remember, doing some pieces and like twenty twelve, where was I oh, you know hashtag. Actually this is one of the best years to have taken place ever because you know there was really rapid economic growth in China and India. That was not as good but significant growth in Africa Region All other places like that, so Amerika was kind of like mired in this recession, but like the world as a whole was doing well,
A million people died of air pollution to China that year, but nobody like, but I called it has been quite the opposite of that. But, like I don't know like we gotta vaccines, Ike, where, where we're going strong, our economy at least survived well but like tons of the world, are lacking in ruins. Now, over and above the sort of crude. You know that the death measurements- and I don't know it was like. I think I got high status but low popularity thing to say years ago that we should be worried more about preventing pandemics and, like we really should. Thank you very much more. But if anything it's like vanished from the conversation,
and in an odd way like I really it's really striking. I mean you, you know it was the countries of the world who thought themselves most in vulnerable to this threat, who were hit hardest last spring and summer, and you think that that would be like credible lesson to us and to re prioritize this set of concerns, but we ve, especially in the EU. In the UK with emerged from that from that suffering from all that dying, not with our like pride. rushed or vanity diminished, but the opposite were now like. Well, of course, we're back in the lead. Here in this raised, like of course, Americans are now safer. Can travel on the world's, like I knew literally, like you know he, unless it's like and you can be travelling the summer showing I've seen passports in places where there is like no vaccines and
the living high on the HANS air. That is like on some of the like a horrifying indictment of, not just our you know. Our senses title meant, but how short sighted we are there just nine months ago we were now in a considerably different place than say people in India or South Africa and Brazil. In fact, too we were in a worse spots, and yet we ve come out of that. thinking we need do more to prevent the spread of this disease club, this disease globally or invest in preventing the spread of future. These globally, but just more like, oh now that we're like a marker vaccines. Evidence can be found in the future with anything to worry about it anymore and that's on it's kind of damning, damning, multiple levels down. I think with that you thought let you
so thanks. David is really great great discussion, thanks as always to our sponsors, thanks to producer economic, as usual, be back on Tuesday.
Transcript generated on 2021-08-08.