Lone Simonsen

A close quantitative look at the COVID-19 pandemic, placed in the context of historical pandemics

Professor of Population Health Sciences, Department of Science and Environment at Roskilde University

Lone Simonsen
09/09 2020
12:15-13:15, DIAS conference room
Lecture
Lone Simonsen is professor of Population Health Sciences, Department of Science and Environment at Roskilde University, following an EU-funded Marie Curie Action funded visiting professorship at University of Copenhagen. She also holds a position as research professor in Global Health at George Washington University, and she is an elected member of the Danish Royal Academy of Sciences & Letters.

In more than two decades, she has worked at the US-CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) on different issues on virus, including HIV and AIDS, antibiotic resistance and vaccine program evaluation.

Lone Simonsen’s research today focuses on modeling historical and contemporary pandemics and emerging infectious diseases, population transitions to long healthy lives, and vaccine program evaluation.


Summary

On behalf of the Carlsberg-funded PandemiX team at Roskilde University, Lone Simonsen will talk about the experience with investigating population impact “signatures” of past influenza pandemics, then discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic is similar and radically different from that experience – and how this is shaping our understanding of a very different type of pandemic.

A high transmissibility (Ro=2,5), short generation time, and a broad clinical spectrum of illness allowed this novel virus to rapidly spread widely and under the radar worldwide. Effective transmissibility combined with an infection fatality ratio (IFR) of 0,3%-1% places this pandemic in the moderate-to-severe end of the pandemic spectrum – that is, if we “let it rip”.

But Denmark and many other countries have successfully halted the impact with draconic measures such as country lock-downs and tight hygiene. The success in Denmark of halting the pandemic – as well as the declining force of infection even as our country reopened over the summer – was at first a surprising. We propose that this containment success is due to the marked heterogeneity in transmissibility.

This phenomenon – superspreading – we believe to be an Achilles heel for SARS-CoV2 (and other coronavira), so that effective control is in fact possible with intense non-pharmaceutical mitigation strategies. Finding a sustainable strategy that we can live with until a safe and effective vaccine becomes available is the ticket.

But what does that look like? What might happen in low-income countries with a young demographic? How can we contain occasional outbreak flare-ups? Did Sweden get it right? And how long must we wait for that vaccine?

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