Ezekiel Emanuel: ‘We Cannot Return to Normal Until There’s a Vaccine,’ Could Be 12-18 Months

Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, special adviser for health care at the Office of Management and Budget, speaks March 11 at the American Medical Association's annual conference in Washington
J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Dr.¬†Ezekiel Emanuel, an architect of Obamacare and special adviser to the director-general of the World Health Organization, told MSNBC’s The Last Word that the United States cannot return to normal until a Chinese coronavirus vaccine is available, which he speculated could take between 12-18 months.

A transcript is as follows: 

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL: No one is immune to the COVID-19 virus. It threatens all of us. But while we are all experiencing the same pandemic, we are not experiencing it in the same way. The first dividing line is whether you or someone you love has gotten sick. Many Americans have not yet seen firsthand what devastation a positive test can inflict. Another dividing line is whether you have a job that lets you stay at home, working as you juggle child care and video chats.

60 million Americans are still out there not sheltering in place and instead tirelessly working to keep everything going for the rest of us. You keep the electricity flowing and the internet running, food and groceries moving. You are putting your own health on the line to ensure the rest of us are living as normally as possible. And then there are the tens of millions of Americans who have lost jobs and businesses, or who fear that they’re just about to. Your anxiety about the virus is coupled with worry over having a paycheck, covering the mortgage, keeping the lights on, and buying food.

Realistically, COVID-19 will be here for the next 18 months or more. We will not be able to return to normalcy until we find a vaccine or effective medications. I know that’s dreadful news to hear. How are people supposed to find work if this goes on in some form for a year and a half? Is all that economic pain worth trying to stop COVID-19? The truth is we have no choice. If we prematurely end that physical distancing and the other measures keeping it at bay, deaths could skyrocket into the hundreds of thousands if not a million. We cannot return to normal until there’s a vaccine. Conferences, concerts, sporting events, religious services, dinner in a restaurant, none of that will resume until we find a vaccine, a treatment, or a cure.

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