The World Health Organization does not expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 until the middle of next year, a spokesperson said on Friday, stressing the importance of rigorous checks on their effectiveness and safety. None of the candidate vaccines in advanced clinical trials so far has demonstrated a “clear signal” of efficacy at the level of at least 50 per cent sought by the WHO, spokesperson Margaret Harris said. Russia granted regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine in August after less than two months of human testing, prompting some Western experts to question its safety and efficacy.
U.S. public health officials and Pfizer Inc. said on Thursday a vaccine could be ready for distribution as soon as late October. That would be just ahead of the U.S. election on Nov. 3 in which the pandemic is likely to be a major factor among voters deciding whether President Donald Trump wins a second term. “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,” Harris told a United Nations briefing in Geneva. 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. All data from trials must be shared and compared, Harris said.
The WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance are leading a global vaccine allocation plan known as COVAX, which aims to help buy and distribute shots fairly. The focus is on first vaccinating the most high-risk people in every country such as health-care workers. COVAX aims to procure and deliver two billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021, but some countries that have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, including the U.S., have said they will not join. Meanwhile, an independent panel appointed by the World Health Organization to review its co-ordination of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic will have full access to any internal UN agency documents, materials and emails necessary, the panel said Thursday as it began the probe.