In 2005, the Irish Chamber had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Robert C. Gallo, MD as a keynote speaker. Dr. Gallo is the eminent scientist who became world famous in 1984 when he co-discovered HIV as the cause of AIDS.  Click HERE to view more photos from that event.

An Old Vaccine May Help Against Coronavirus
A tablet for polio boosts innate immunity, which fights other viruses.

By Robert C. Gallo, MD, and Daniel J. Arbess
June 30, 2020

The Global Virus Network is a collaboration among virology researchers and social scientists to improve pandemic preparedness and response. We know that life must go on while work on a Covid-19 vaccine continues. We believe that as people return to work, their risk of infection can be minimized by applying an old vaccine known to be a potent stimulus of the innate immune system.

Whether there will be a Covid-specific vaccine is still unclear. The sequence of the Covid-19 viral genome, published in January by Chinese scientists, can identify proteins to be targeted by a vaccine. But verifying its safety and measuring the duration of its effectiveness, if any, will take at least another year. And what if the virus develops and mutates, as it is already doing? Vaccines against the common flu have been less than 50% reliable against new mutations in recent years. An innate-immunity vaccine can provide nonspecific protection against a range of viruses and become effective in hours, not weeks.

The innate immune system is the body’s first line of defense. Recent studies using one of innate immunity’s main components, interferon, have shown positive results in dampening the coronavirus and controlling the body’s inflammatory response.

We suggest the Sabin Oral Polio Vaccine, or OPV, as an ideal way to stimulate native emergency immune response to Covid while work on a targeted vaccine continues. OPV has a 70-year track record in protecting against polio, and almost 50 years ago Russian virologists discovered that it is also protective against other viruses. It reduced influenza by 3.8-fold—better than specific influenza vaccines. Other vaccines, including one for measles, can do the same.

We propose OPV because of its availability, simplicity (a tablet), very low cost and decadeslong safety record. No toxicity has been observed in populations already vaccinated against polio. Even in an unvaccinated population, side effects are rare. Billions of people have received OPV, including nearly everyone in the U.S. between 1962 and 2000.

Past studies suggest that this protection from innate immunity could last for several months, and repeat vaccination might be done to extend innate immunity considerably longer. This approach should provide ample time for economies to normalize while the investigation of Covid-specific vaccine candidates continues over the next year or two. Stimulating the innate immune system with OPV looks like a free and safe option for saving lives while we wait for an effective Covid-19 vaccine.

Dr. Gallo is director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology and a co-founder of the Global Virus Network. Mr. Arbess is CEO of Xerion Investments and a member of the Global Virus Network’s board.

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