On Tuesday, WHO Director-General TedrosAdhanom Ghebreyesus said that a vaccine against COVID-19 might be ready by year-end, without further elaboration on it. This optimistic turn comes when the number of Covid-19 cases across the globe has crossed 50 million, and infections are surging in countries like the U.S, the U.K and France.
In the closing remarks to the WHO’s Executive Board meeting that examined the global response to the pandemic, Tedros said that “We will need vaccines and there is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine. There is hope. The Pfizer one is a very promising one; we also expect more and more.”
He also reiterated the United Nations agency’s call for an equitable distribution of vaccine doses when they become available and called for solidarity and political commitment by all leaders to ensure the same.
“We welcome the encouraging vaccine news from @pfizer& @BioNTech_Group& salute all scientists & partners around the who are developing new safe, efficacious tools to beat #COVID19,” Tedros had welcomed the news on Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in a tweet on Monday. “The world is experiencing unprecedented scientific innovation & collaboration to end the pandemic,” he added.
As of mid-October, the WHO has identified 42 potential vaccine candidates at the stage of clinical trials, approximately a four-times increase from 11 in mid-June. Out of these, ten are at the most advanced phase 3 stage, in which a vaccine’s effectiveness is tested on a large scale, generally on thousands of people across several continents.
At the same time, MatshidisoMoeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, expressed concern at the Executive Board meeting: “The exciting news yesterday of a possible effective vaccine becoming available presages significant cold chains challenges for African countries by the type of vaccine that that is. Which will need to be factored into the support to be provided.” No final decision has been made on the Pfizer vaccine so far.