Inaugural conference with participants from 110 countries, headlined by NYT columnist Thomas Friedman, gathers together world-renowned experts to discuss lessons learned from COVID-19
Edited by: JV Staff
Speaking at the World Leading Hospitals Project COVID-19 conference on Monday, healthcare leaders from 10 countries shared their thoughts on the scientific, medical, societal and economic ramifications of the pandemic. The conference had over 3,000 participants from 110 countries, and consisted of three panel discussions and a Q&A with New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman.
In his address, Prof. Ranni Gamzu, CEO of Ichilov Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Israel’s former Coronavirus Project Coordinator predicted that most of the world will emerge from the crisis over the second half of 2021. Additionally, he noted that as the world moves out of the pandemic, it is critical that the worldwide healthcare community internalize the lessons learned in order to prepare properly for the next crisis, which was a common theme among panelists, as outlined in the quotes below:
Lessons Learned from COVID-19
“Early in the pandemic we didn’t see a governing body that led and coordinated efforts on a global level, in a way where each country could learn from another. The WHO, whose role that is, wasn’t able to. The real benefit came from discussions that we had among colleagues around the globe–one physician speaking to another to discuss and learn from one day to the next. We must learn from this and coordinate on an international level,” Prof. Gamzu said.
Echoing Prof. Gamzu’s remarks, Prof David Reich, President and Chief Operating Officer of Mount Sinai Hospital, noted that “the first lesson we’ve learned is that we are now much more aware of post acute care needs. The health system must be flexible and dynamic so that we are able to move patients around to get them to the best beds and locations. The second is that PPE works well when used effectively. And the third is that visitors are part of the healing process and patients need to get adequate visitations.”
“I think we’re on a learning curve–at first we “knew” to intubate early and two months in, we learned we’d rather intubate late and then that intubation was directly associated with a worse outcome. We are still on this learning curve,” said Prof. Idit Matot, Director Anesthesia, Pain and Intensive Care Division, Director; General Surgery Division, Ichilov, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.
“Personalization is very important–we first intubated too early, then too late and we finally realized we needed to personalize these decisions. We also learned that COVID-19 is not just a lung problem, but that multiple organ failure is a major problem,” said Prof. Jean-Louis Vincent, Professor Intensive Care Medicine (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Dept of Intensive Care, Erasme Univ Hospital.
Panelists at the event also focused on the recent news that Pfizer and Moderna have made significant progress towards the development of viable vaccines.
“The Pfizer and Moderna announcements are welcome news and it gives an opportunity for optimism. This is evidence of good progress and a testimony to how hard people have worked to accelerate new candidate vaccines from the drawing board through to phase 1 and beyond to demonstrate efficacy. However, many scientific questions remain. But my first instinct is that it’s welcome news, but not to be taken uncritically,” said Prof. Maria Zambon, Head of Influenza and Respiratory Virology & Polio Reference Service, PHE National Infection Service
“The design of vaccines often has different goals and in the case of COVID-19 vaccines, one of the first goals must be prevention of severe disease. That’s not always the same as preventing transmission. With COVID-19, the main goal is to design vaccines that prevent severe infections and the consequences of infection. In the UK, 80% of deaths have been elderly over the age of 65 so that’s a key target group for the initial phase of such a vaccine. It’s important not to muddle up the two objectives,” added Prof. Zambon.
“From a scientific perspective, we need to be careful and wait for the data, analyze, even criticize–we need to be cautious about the information coming in. Any optimistic information is useful but we should be careful about hyper optimism,” said Prof. Jesús Rodríguez Baño, Head of Infectious Diseases Division, Hospital Universitario Virgen
“The second thing to determine is will these vaccines be effective against SARS-CoV- 2 as it mutates? Just as the flu changes from year to year and vaccine technology also has to, we don’t yet know if we can stay ahead of this virus as it mutates. We need to be as optimistic as possible but as realistic as possible,” said Prof. Jonathan Javitt, Professor of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University
“We have more knowledge now than we did 6 or 7 months ago and they may help us in designing better approaches to clinical studies in general. There are phases to this illness…it may not be that there will be one magic bullet, but different strategies that need to be taken. We need a system-wide approach with a permissive environment,” said Prof. Zambon.
“We have to invent the rules as we go along. When starting our tial, it’s the open label patients who have taught us the most…had we just done the randomized-from-the-first-patient approach, we probably would have made some huge mistakes along the way. We need to reinvent the way we do clinical trials and be daring,” said Prof. Javitt.
“The most important thing for all of us to do in medical leadership is to emphasize that vaccines are very important to take. There will be people that won’t take it and they need to be educated. The public health discussion will move from the spread of infection to the ability to get a handle on this with vaccines,” said Prof. Reich.
“We should be patient. The vaccine will come but not immediately and while we’re waiting, we have to be resilient and use this time to overcome vaccine reluctance among citizens. There is a substantial increase in vaccine reluctance in the US and Europe,” said Dr. Binder.