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UW Virology head: ‘I hope we give science benefit of doubt’ in next pandemic

Over the last year, health officials at the University of Washington Virology lab have been constantly taking in new information as they’ve worked to mitigate against the effects of the pandemic. And while it was a tough year for everyone, the hope is that all the work done during that period will prove crucial should another pandemic begin to take shape in the future.

From vaccine research to observations on the relative effectiveness of lockdowns, a lot was learned by experts both at UW Virology and across the globe.

“We’ve learned a tremendous amount,” UW Virology head Dr. Keith Jerome told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “There are going to be benefits that will show themselves over the next several years from this entire COVID experience, as horrible as it’s been.”

Moving forward, that will also help drive research into future viruses, as well as speeding along the process of vaccine development should it ever become necessary.

“There will be some benefits and research on other viruses and other diseases, and some other people will actually be helped from what we’ve learned and the capacity that we’ve built,” Dr. Jerome described.

Head of UW Virology Lab answers your vaccine questions

Dealing with a possible pandemic will also be a two-way street, though, given the political minefield many aspects of the COVID crisis quickly evolved into.

Through that, Jerome hopes the rest of the world will continue to believe in the work of health experts, and recognize that knowledge is constantly evolving.

“I would hope that we could learn as a society that science is imperfect, but it’s working and it’s trying to come up with the right answers,” he noted. “When there are recommendations, I hope we give science the benefit of the doubt and say, ‘OK, if you guys think that this is the best approach right now, let’s go with that, and I promise not to be too upset if you find out in a couple months that actually this way is better.'”

“I hope people have learned that that’s sort of how science works,” he continued. “We give the best answer we can right now, we’ll tell you how sure we think we are, and occasionally, we’ll change our mind when we know better — that’s just how we try to get the truth.”

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