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Nobel Prize-winning immunologist explains why COVID-19 fatality rate is falling

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The COVID-19 fatality rate is falling, but a Nobel Prize-winning immunologist says it’s not because the virus is weakening.

Professor Peter Doherty says fewer people are dying with coronavirus, but infections are on the rise globally.

“We’ve had enormous numbers of infections and it’s ramping up in the northern hemisphere very rapidly … and there’s no sign the virus itself is changing, and we’re not seeing as many deaths as we were seeing,” he told Neil Mitchell.

Professor Doherty said there are two reasons why COVID-19 is less fatal than it was earlier in the pandemic.

“Older people are being a lot more careful than they were at the beginning so it’s a younger cohort,” he said.

“The other thing is the doctors have just got better at handling it.

“They’re generally saving 30 to 50 per cent of those who would have died.”

Professor Doherty said he’d like to see greater focus on drugs to treat the virus, as they could be made available much more quickly than a vaccine.

“The problem with a vaccine … you’ve got to wait until people do or do not get the infection. That makes it really complicated to analyse, but with a drug you give it to people who are sick, so that’s much more straightforward,” he said.

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