Won’t support unsafe COVID-19 vaccine; WHO

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

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the U.N. health agency won’t recommend any coronavirus vaccine before it is proved safe and effective.

The WHO head’s comments came during his interaction yesterday even as Russia and China have started using their experimental vaccines before long-term studies have been completed. Other countries have proposed streamlining authorization procedures.

Dr. Ghebreyesus said that vaccines have been used successfully for decades and credited them with eradicating smallpox and bringing polio to near elimination. He reportedly pointed to newly developed Ebola vaccines that helped end the recent Ebola outbreak in Congo.

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The WHO chief appealed to people opposed to vaccination to do their own research. “The anti-vaccine movement, they can build narratives to fight against vaccines. But the track record of vaccines tells its own story and people should not be confused,” he says. “They can have a look for themselves on how the world actually used vaccines to reduce under 5 mortality to save children.”

He says he’s hopeful there’d soon be an effective coronavirus vaccine “so the world can get back to normal.”

On an encouraging note, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said “Certainly by the middle of 2021, we should start to see some vaccines actually moving into countries and populations.”

Noting that there were 13 experimental vaccines currently in clinical trials, Swaminathan called it an “optimistic scenario” since the typical success rate of 10 percent could mean several vaccines are approved.

But Swaminathan added that no vaccine should be approved for a worldwide roll-out until it had undergone sufficient scrutiny.