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The World Health Organization says it is unlikely a safe, effective vaccine
against COVID-19 will be available for widespread use before the middle of next year.
Urging people to lower their expectations, health officials say the development of a safe, efficacious vaccine takes time and cannot be rushed. As it is, the WHO reports remarkable progress is being made toward this end. It notes at least six to nine candidate vaccines have begun Phase 3 clinical trials.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris says many thousands of people participate in these carefully crafted trials. She says a vaccine must be proven to be safe and seen to provide protection against the coronavirus in at least 50% of subjects before it can be approved for public use.
Harris says the safety of the vaccine has to be monitored at all stages of the research, making this a lengthy process.
“The good news is the manufacturers are already putting bets on which one is likely to be the vaccine. And, they are all working on how they can scale-up production of vaccines, once we know which ones are the ones we will roll out.… But, in terms of realistic timelines, we are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,” she said.
Harris told VOA that the WHO does not tell governments when a vaccine should be made available for emergency or general use. She said that is a decision for countries to make for themselves. However, she cautioned against raising false hopes about the prospect of an imminent vaccine that would vanquish the pandemic.
“What we have been saying over and over is nobody should be sitting there waiting for the magic bullet. You know, thinking that the vaccine is going to solve all this or that there will be a wonder drug. What we have to do now is do the things we know suppress this virus…. And those are the basics—the hand-washing, the social distancing that we are doing, the mask-wearing,” she said.
According to Harris, the WHO believes all nations must work together in the search for a vaccine. She said sharing and comparing data is important and will result in a vaccine that protects everybody.
Harris called this a global public good. She said a vaccine not only is essential but must be provided in all parts of the world, adding that unless everybody is protected, nobody is protected.
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