A COVID-19 vaccine should benefit everyone; WHO Director-General

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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WHO Director General
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaking at a recent media briefing

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Director-General praised the rapid progress made towards a viable COVID-19 vaccine while insisting that every country must reap the benefits.

Addressing WHO’s annual assembly, the WHO chief stated that “A vaccine will be a vital tool for controlling the pandemic, and we’re encouraged by the preliminary results of clinical trials released this week.”

Earlier this week, US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech revealed that the COVID-19 vaccine candidate co-developed by the duo prove to be effective in 90 percent of instances in the ongoing final phase trials involving more than 40,000 people.

“Never in history has vaccine research progressed so quickly. We must apply the same urgency and innovation to ensure that all countries benefit from this scientific achievement,” Dr. Ghebreyesus observed.

The WHO head observed that the pandemic has shown that there is an urgent need for “a globally-agreed system for sharing pathogen materials and clinical samples”, to facilitate the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics as “global public goods” while adding that the system could not wait for bilateral agreements that could take years to negotiate.

“We are proposing a new approach that would include a repository for materials housed by the WHO in a secure Swiss facility; an agreement that sharing materials into this repository is voluntary; that the WHO can facilitate the transfer and use of the materials; and a set of criteria under which the WHO would distribute them,” the WHO Director-General remarked.

Dr. Ghebreyesus took the opportunity to thank Italy and Thailand for extending their support with materials to the new approach while Switzerland offered a laboratory.

New Resolution 

WHO members approved a new resolution on strengthening preparedness for health emergencies which “will prioritize at the highest political level the improvement of, and co-ordination for, health emergency preparedness”.

The resolution also encourages countries to continue developing their capacities for detecting infectious diseases, in compliance with the International Health Regulations.