Jodie McVernon on Melbourne’s modelling, a Covid vaccine, and the role of experts in a crisis
In light of Victoria’s cautious roadmap out of lockdown, with some experts claiming the exit is too fast, and others believing it is unnecessarily slow, the modelling underpinning the decisions is under close scrutiny.
University of Melbourne Professor Jodie McVernon is director of epidemiology at the Doherty Institute, and a modelling expert.
She tells the podcast, “I think the broad qualitative conclusions of the model would have been reached by really any kind of model formulation - that the lower numbers can be driven down, the less likely a resurgence would be”.
This week saw a pause in the progress towards a hoped-for Oxford vaccine, when a clinical trial produced an unexplained illness in one participants.
But McVernon remains optimistic. “I think we will get vaccines. I don’t think we’ll get perfect ones, but I’m hoping we’ll get useful ones – because without vaccines, we only have behaviour to prevent this disease. … So I think [a vaccine will] be one of a suite of things that we’ll be using into the future to control the spread of Covid.”
The pandemic has seen ‘experts’, including public health officials and academics, come centre stage as public figures – as policy heroes but, latterly, also targets for some critics who think their voices are carrying too much influence.
“I would have to say I’m a very reluctantly public figure,” McVernon says.
“[I] was convinced by others early on that it is important …in these times of uncertainty that people are reassured by having the evidence explained.
"If we we do have expert knowledge and we can help to clarify things for the public - I think that’s an important responsibility. Part of having knowledge is sharing that knowledge.”
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