NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Friday marks one year since the first reported case of COVID-19 was reported in Tennessee.
NewsChannel 5 spoke with Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt, about the anniversary – a year after NC5 interviewed him on the day the first case was announced.
Schaffner said 2020 was an extraordinary year, and that those in infectious disease and public health, were always worried a pandemic of this magnitude could happen. COVID was new to all of them, but he noted how much they have learned throughout all of this.
Reporter Cole Johnson asked Schaffner about coming this far and if he is hopeful about where we are now.
“I'm always hopeful for where we are, where we're going. But I am a cautious optimist. I think we have to actually take the good information that we have learned the science-based information, and then apply it, and we have to do so carefully and deliberately. You can't do it carelessly," he said.
Schaffner also said like the flu, COVID won’t disappear and that we “have to cope with it.” He also answered more questions about the virus and vaccines:
What do we need to do to get back to “normal?”
“I look forward to near-term future, late in the summer, autumn. I hope that we could have a near-normal Thanksgiving,” Schaffner said. But in order to do that, he said we need to focus on two things – vaccinations and keeping an eye on variants.
Where do you see us in a year?
“Even today I think looking ahead we could anticipate that yes, each fall we will have to get our flu shot in one arm and our COVID shot in the other. Because both of these viruses change, they like to mutate so we’ll have to keep up scientifically to provide good vaccines that provide good ongoing protection.”
Should we trust all three vaccines?
“All three of these vaccines’ effectiveness, they’re all in the same ballpark. Let’s not argue whether Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig had the better batting average. They’re both fabulous ballplayers, these three vaccines are fabulous vaccines. Remember, they were tested in different populations at different times. Johnson & Johnson had to deal more with the variants because they did their testing a little bit later. So, you can’t compare them exactly. They all prevent hospitalization, going to the intensive care unit and they all protect us from dying. They’re great. The vaccine you should get is the vaccine that’s available to you today. Roll up your sleeve and get it.”
Will all adults be vaccinated by May?
“I need to remind everybody, vaccines never prevented disease. Vaccination prevents disease… people have to come forward and accept the vaccine. We’re trying to vaccinate 80%+ of the adults in the United States in a short period of time, we’ve never done that before. But I’m sure, if we in the United States, work of this together we can be successful.”
After adults, who’s next?
“As we get more data down the road toward the end of the summer, we’ll start vaccinating adolescents and then older children and then younger children and on down the age range. We’ll be doing that at the same time, once the information, the data come, probably toward the end of the summer.”
Watch the full interview with Dr. Schaffner in the video player.