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When will life go back to normal? Time to prepare for the long-term, says vaccine expert

Health officials believe COVID-19 will peak in the Greater Houston area by the beginning of May. After the peak, then what? When will life go back to normal?

HOUSTON — As the world struggles with COVID-19, there is a lot of hope riding on the development of a vaccine.

Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the Co-director at Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development, is one of the minds leading that vaccine charge.

“It’s a great honor having the privilege,” Hotez said. “But it’s an enormous amount of pressure and some days are better than others.”

Scientists have said they believe social distancing and other preventative measures being taken across the world are helping slow the spread of COVID-19, however, once Texas gets through the peak, then what?

“That’s a big question, right? And I don’t think it’s going to be a one-off thing; now we’re done with our social distancing part now, it goes away and we start rebuilding our economy,” Hotez said. “I think it’s quite reasonable that we are going to get a three-year pandemic. It’s going to go in waves.”

Hotez believes the United States needs to prepare for the possibility of a vaccine taking longer than the 12- to 18-month goal.

“We’ve heard the charge from Dr. (Anthony) Fauci and our scientists are now in the lab working day and night to see if we can make this happen, but you have to temper that with some hard realities that on average a vaccine takes 10 to 20 years to develop. And mumps, I think, is the world’s record, according to my colleague Paul Offit, who tells me they did it in four years,” Hotez said. “I think the message, and it’s a tough message for people to hear, is don’t just wait around for the vaccine. Maybe it will come in time maybe it won’t but build out your roadmap of national strategy now.”

It's a strategy that Hotez thinks should include bringing the brightest scientific and economic minds together with government and mental health officials to put a long-term plan in place.

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