Health, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

WHO chief sees 'light at the end of long, dark tunnel'

WHO Director-General welcomes positive news on COVID-19 vaccines but warns they must be distributed fairly

Peter Kenny   | 23.11.2020
WHO chief sees 'light at the end of long, dark tunnel'

GENEVA

With current vaccine developments, the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is growing brighter, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief said Monday.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus gave an upbeat assessment on vaccine development after recent data showed that more COVID-19 cases had been reported in a recent 4 weeks than in first 6 months of the pandemic.

He was speaking at a twice-weekly press webinar in Geneva on the novel coronavirus.

At the same time, Tedros warned, "The urgency with which vaccines have been developed must be matched by the same urgency to distribute them fairly."

He said: "With the latest positive news from vaccine trials, the light at the end of this long, dark channel is growing brighter.

"There is now real hope that vaccines, in combination with other tried and tested public health measures, will help to end the pandemic."

He stressed that no vaccines in history had been developed as rapidly as now.

"The scientific community has a new standard for vaccine development. Now, the international community must set the new standard for access."

The WHO was asked to comment on news of a vaccine developed by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca at Oxford University that has 70% efficacy against the novel coronavirus.

The WHO's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, said this news followed on "encouraging results from the two earlier vaccines" that Pfizer and Moderna announced.

She said that the "The AstraZeneca vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. So, I think the good news is that vaccines for COVID-19 disease are possible to make.

"And it's possible that we will have a number of vaccine candidates that can be used in the fight against this disease."

Like Tedros, Swaminathan said, "We would like to provide access to as many efficacious and safe vaccines as possible so that we can cover the population around the world.

"Remember, we have to cover a huge number of billions and billions of people, and this is unprecedented. And we will need all the manufacturing capacity in the world to be able to do that."

On the AstraZeneca results, she said that the WHO had heard only the preliminary results about the vaccine trials in the UK.

"I think we need to wait to see the results both of the efficacy and the safety," said Swaminathan.

She noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine is also being currently trialed in many other countries, and eventually, there should be details on about 60,000 patients "that will enable us to have a much more informed decision."

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