Written by 7:49 AM News

Widespread Covid-19 vaccines not expected until mid-2021, says WHO

The World Health Organization on Friday said it does not expect widespread vaccinations against Covid-19 till the middle of next year, Reuters reported. WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said that none of the vaccines in the advanced trials have shown “clear signs” of efficacy, which is at least 50%, sought by the global health body.

“This phase 3 must take longer because we need to see how truly protective the vaccine is and we also need to say how safe it is,” Harris said. She was referring to the advanced phases where trials are conducted on a large human sample size.

On Thursday, the United States health officials and pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer said they were also planning to distribute coronavirus vaccines in the country. It is slated to begin from late October just ahead of the presidential polls. The US had on Tuesday decided to go alone in manufacturing a vaccine and announced that it will not join the global initiative to develop, manufacture and equally distribute the same.

“We are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,” Harris told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

“This phase 3 must take longer because we need to see how truly protective the vaccine is and we also need to see how safe it is,” she added. This referred to the phase in vaccine research where large clinical trials among people are conducted. Harris did not refer to any specific vaccine candidate.

The WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance are leading a global vaccine allocation plan known as COVAX that aims to help buy and distribute shots fairly. The focus is on first vaccinating the most high-risk people in every country such as healthcare workers.

COVAX aims to procure and deliver 2 billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021, but some countries that have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, including the United States, have said they will not join.

Russia has already approved a coronavirus vaccine for use. On August 26, Moscow mayor called upon citizens to participate in an advanced trial. The mass production of the vaccine, named Sputnik-V, is expected to begin in September. Sputnik-V produced an antibody response in all participants without any adverse effects in the early-stage trials, according to preliminary results published by medical journal The Lancet.

“Essentially, the door is open. We are open. What the COVAX is about is making sure everybody on the planet will get access to the vaccines,” Harris said.

Swiss major Novartis has sought regulatory approval in India to initiate Phase III clinical trials for its drug Ruxolitinib for Covid-19. These trials will be part of a global study that the company started in May to evaluate the use of Ruxolitinib (sold as Jakavi) for treatment of a severe immune overreaction — cytokine storm — that can lead to life-threatening respiratory complications in patients with Covid-19, a Novartis official confirmed to TOI.

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