Doctors say COVID-19 treatment is more likely to come before vaccine

Posted at 6:18 PM, May 13, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The medical community has a lot of questions and not many answers when it comes to COVID-19. Doctors do not have treatments for the coronavirus as they do the flu or the common cold.

"It's the biggest we've ever seen, at least in my career, this state of unknown,” said Dr. Sanjay Sethi, a professor and Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine at University at Buffalo.

“It's a little scary to be honest. But it's also humbling,” said Dr. James Hereth, an attending physician in Buffalo General MICU and Oishei Children’s Hospital ICU. “[It’s] unlike anything we've ever seen before. Regarding treatment, there really is no magic bullet yet.”

How do you treat a virus when there's no known treatments? It involves a lot of reading and discussions.

"We are relying on our colleagues downstate, across the pond and on the West coast to get an idea of what they're seeing, what they're treating and doing our best upon that,” said Dr. Hereth.

It's not trial and error. Doctors don't try anything that would be harmful to their patients.

"It's trial and let's see what happens,” Dr. Sethi said.

"If when something new comes up and works, we evaluate it and try it. The benefit has to outweigh the risk,” said Dr. Hereth.

There may not be a one size fits all solution for patients.

“I wouldn't be surprised if we started doing all sets of combinations trying to get patients to be better,” Dr. Sethi said, “We need a vaccine. But before that, if we can get one or more treatments, that work.”

Finding a treatment or several treatments could be the faster way to fighting the pandemic and getting back to normal.

"I really think a treatment is going to be more likely than a vaccine,” Dr. Hereth said.

HIV is an example of this. There is no vaccine for the virus, but there is treatment. If you contract HIV, you can survive.

"If you can reduce the severity, make it shorter, people will get out of the hospital faster. Then you can change the dynamics. Then, I think opening up and going back to normal becomes more realistic because even if you do fall sick, there are things that we can do,” Dr. Sethi said.

Both doctors say time will tell. They believe we will be dealing with the coronavirus for at least another year or two.