A spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation stated on Friday that the organisation does not expect vaccinations for COVID-19 to be made available in a widespread manner until the middle of 2021, with there being numerous checks needed in order to review such vaccines’ effectiveness and safety.
The spokeswoman, Margaret Harris, stated that so far, none of the candidate vaccines that were in advanced trials had shown a “clear signal” of efficacy at the level of at least 50% which is sought after by the WHO.
In August, Russia granted regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine candidate after less than two months of human testing, which led to several Western experts to question the safety and efficacy of the candidate vaccine.
In the United States, public health officials and Pfizer Inc claimed on Thursday that a vaccine could be set for distribution as early as late October, being just before the U.S. election which is going to take place on November 3.
The U.S. election is likely going to be immensely influenced by the pandemic, and if such a vaccine is approved, then President Donald Trump might just secure a second term, gaining the people’s approval.
Harris told a United Nations briefing in Geneva that “We are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year”.
She added that “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”.
The third phase of developing a vaccine is human trials, the most crucial phase as it determines whether side-effects are developed or not, and if the vaccine is actually effective.
Harris stated that all of the data from the clinical trials have to be shared and compared, adding that “A lot of people have been vaccinated and what we don’t know is whether the vaccine works…at this stage we do not have the clear signal of whether or not it has the level of worthwhile efficacy and safety”.
Currently, the WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance are leading a global vaccine allocation plan known as COVAX in order to help countries buy and distribute vaccine shots as fairly as possible.
The focus of COVAX is to first vaccinate the most high-risk people in each country, some being healthcare workers that are faced with the virus on a daily basis.
COVAX aims to allocate 2 billion doses of the approved vaccines by the end of 2021, yet there are countries that have claimed that they will not join the plan as they have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, one of these countries being the U.S.
Harris concluded by saying that “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”.