Coronavirus News: Scientists working to reduce COVID-19 side effects

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Local scientists are working feverishly to not only find a vaccine for COVID-19 but also a drug or drugs to cut down on side effects.

"I woke up with a fever, chills, aches, and I just knew in my gut that I had it," said Matthew Allen, of Brooklyn.

He's one of thousands of people in the New York City area who tested positive for the virus, and 10 days later, he's still experiencing fevers and side effects.

"I truly feel like my body doesn't belong to me at this point," Allen said. "It belongs to this virus. It has taken over every organ in my body from my skin to my stomach to my nose and chest."

Help could be on the way in terms of side effects and possibly a cure, as dozens of companies and research institutions are racing to find a vaccine.

"We're expediting it," former FDA associate commissioner Peter Pitts said. "We are moving ahead very quickly, but science has to have a role here."

Pitts helped combat the SARS epidemic and says we are at least 10 months away from the approval of a new vaccine.

"And by vaccine standards, that is fast," he said. "You've got to discover it, and then manufacturing is also tough."

Pitts says he believes we are about two weeks away from approving drugs and therapies to help with COVID-19 side effects.

The FDA is giving emergency clearance to some local doctors to transfer plasma from positive patients who have recovered to those with serious or life threatening complications. The blood could contain virus fighting antibodies.

Also, there are some prescription drugs people already have in their medicine cabinets for arthritis and lupus that could be approved soon to help cut down on side effects of the virus.

"One of the unintended consequences, though, one of the dangerous unintended consequences, is that people are going to rush to their doctors wanting this drug," Pitts said. "And there will be shortages, so people who need the drug now for arthritis and lupus won't be able to get it."

Meanwhile, those recovering from the virus are encouraging others to stay home.

"Stay home," Allen said. "Take this seriously and know that this is nothing you want to deal with."

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