Covid vaccines should be “a world public good,” says the WHO

A health care worker injects the syringe of the Phase 3 vaccine study into a volunteer at Ankara University’s Ibni Sina Hospital in Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 27, 2020. This vaccine candidate was developed against the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) by the US company Pfizer and the German BioNTech company.

Dougkan Keskinkilic | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

LONDON – News from global pharmaceutical companies that their coronavirus vaccine candidates are highly effective is welcome, but work still needs to be done to reach everyone around the world, the World Health Organization’s Europe chief said Thursday.

“I firmly believe that there is more hope than despair,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, on an online broadcast discussing the latest vaccine news. He added that this was not a “silver bullet” as access to the vaccine was initially restricted.

The comments follow experimental data from pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna, showing that their respective vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing Covid-19.

More good news came on Thursday as preliminary results from an expert-reviewed Phase 2 study showed the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine is safe and elicits a similar immune response in all adults.

The news from Pfizer and Moderna caused a huge sigh of relief from vaccine manufacturers and world leaders, even though regulators are not yet required to approve any of the vaccines and logistical questions remain unanswered about the potential pace of mass production and worldwide distribution.

Kluge warned on Thursday that “every Covid vaccine should be a global public good” with equal access for all.

“In the past few days we have had good news with two particularly promising vaccines, but that promise will only be achieved if we ensure that all countries have access to the vaccine market, that it is delivered fairly, that it is used effectively, and these countries deal with vaccine reluctance, “he said.

Health and social workers should come first to get the vaccine, followed by people with health problems that make them prone to Covid, Kluge said. Meanwhile, before a vaccine becomes widely available, he urged the public to keep up efforts such as wearing masks and social distancing.

WHO comments paint a mixed picture of the global coronavirus. While much of Asia appears to be affected by the pandemic, cases and deaths in America and Europe continue to increase.

In the WHO’s last weekly update on Tuesday, the global health authority warned that the rate of new Covid-19 cases and deaths continued to rise worldwide. Nearly 4 million new cases and 60,000 new deaths were recorded between November 9-15. The number of infections confirmed by the WHO worldwide is currently over 55.6 million. The number of deaths worldwide is 1,338,769.

In Europe, there were hopes that national or partial bans, imposed since a second wave of infections began at the beginning of autumn, are starting to have a positive impact.

However, parts of the US are facing further standstills. New York City announced Wednesday that it was closing schools due to a rising positivity rate, and other agencies are trying to reinstate some of the orders, curfews and public safety measures, including closing non-essential businesses.

Fears are growing that widespread barriers could be re-established if the spread of infection is not contained.

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