Larry Brilliant has a plan to accelerate the end of the pandemic

If you have half the population vaccinated, can we still have an incredibly destructive spike?

Of course. We are all customers of the virus. There is no wall that will prevent the virus from entering. Think about the third or fourth year pandemic. There will still be billions of unvaccinated people. Billions of people will harbor billions of viruses. Each will respond. A certain percentage mutates. A certain percentage will become variants of these variants—some will be very worrying, and a percentage will be really nightmarish.

Is it inevitable that a variant will arise that is not affected by the vaccine and is more deadly than what we have seen?

It is not inevitable, but it is a non-zero probability.

Is it a double digit probability?

I do not know. How fast are we going to vaccinate the rest of the world? You tell me this.

Do you have a contingency for when this happens?

Well, my dear friend, that’s why I’m doing this. We need a plan B.

We still lose over a thousand people a day, but now we are opening restaurants. Wouldn’t it make a huge difference to wait six weeks or two months?

Of course, this is insane. The cadence of Spring Break, Easter, Memorial Day, and July 4th may bring another bigger spike than we’ve seen before. This is the reason why the Biden administration is working so hard and so quickly to get people vaccinated. If fewer people remain susceptible, the fewer large spikes.

Well, I’m listening, Larry, and I think I might never see a Broadway show again. And if I go to a baseball game in five years, I’ll wear a mask.

It is an overreaction. I’m saying that because it’s likely we’ll never achieve herd immunity, there will be places in the world and in the animal population that could produce variants that could continually re-infect us. Let’s plan for this and set aside enough vaccines and enough money so that we can quickly detect outbreaks, respond just in time with the right vaccine, and contain outbreaks. I am very optimistic about this. In the Cares Act, there is money to pay people to be vaccinated, to be isolated, to give them food and to give them shelter. I think you can go to a Broadway show. And I think baseball is going to happen again, not so much because people are vaccinated, although it’s critically important. Point-of-care diagnostics is also one of them. A year from now there will be $ 5, five minute, 100% accurate home spit tests, and you can do one in the morning before brushing your teeth.

We’ve been hearing about these tests for a year now. Where are they?

We will have it within a year. Want a positive prediction? This is my prediction.

It’s part of your plan B, what you call a comprehensive epidemic detection and containment system.

We will test, plot and isolate. I am looking at these digital notification systems and am optimistic.

These are the systems by Apple and Google that passively detect if you’ve been exposed?

I wasn’t a fan of them at first, I thought they were elitists, but now I understand their value. The biggest problem in contact tracing is finding asymptomatic cases. These systems will find asymptomatic cases. In addition, they do not invade privacy. Most of the data is anonymized. We don’t know someone’s name, but we can send them an appointment to take a test. Maybe you’re a degree or two away from someone who just tested positive. This will allow us to find cases that we have not found. If the system goes into effect, you may receive a notice that you have been exposed to a new variant. He will tell you which vaccines eliminate the variant and give you an appointment to be vaccinated. It is so important to vaccinate the person closest to the disease.

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