WHO claims there will be millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year
Three candidates are about to begin the final phase of human testing in the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. The biggest challenge now is for countries to come together to ensure they reach the world's most vulnerable
The World Health Organization reported Thursday that it expects hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines to be produced by the end of 2020.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said during a virtual press conference that by 2021 they are confident that another 2 billion will be available.
“I am hopeful, I am optimistic. But developing a vaccine is a complex task, it comes with a lot of uncertainty. The good thing about this is that we have many vaccines and platforms so that, even if the first fails, or if the second fails, we do not lose hope, we will not give up. ”
"If we are lucky," said the scientist, there will be one or two successful vaccines by the end of the year.
The expert assured that the delivery of these vaccines to those who need it, depends on their support and investment in the Global Access Fund for Vaccines COVID-19, known as COVAX, a mechanism proposed by the GAVI and WHO alliance, as part of its initiative to accelerate vaccines and treatments against COVID-19.
"We can only do that if the world unites, if countries unite and accept this mechanism. Therefore, we are proposing a framework that could be used to decide who should be prioritized. And I mentioned that you could think of groups of people who should be prioritized. Like, for example, drivers and ambulance workers and other health workers, but also the police, those who work in supermarkets, sanitation workers, these are the people who are very exposed. "
The WHO official noted that other at-risk people who would also benefit from a vaccine included the elderly and those with hypertension, diabetes and dementia. People in prisons, nursing homes, factories and urban slums where outbreaks have been identified should also receive the vaccine as a priority, Swaminathan said.
Health cannot be a business
"The innovation model today is market driven and the WHO has long said that this affects public health as vaccines are not developed for diseases for which there is no commercial value. So we have to change this model and find other ways to do research and development more focused on public health. Health should not be something that is on the market for monetization, "said the expert.
However, Swaminathan assured that in this pandemic there has been great solidarity from the public and private sectors, and clearly from scientists around the world, since knowledge and data are being shared publicly and many of the vaccine manufacturers have said they would like to provide the vaccines at cost, not for profit.
“This is why the COVAX framework that we are proposing is for people and countries, so that they come together and put their resources in one place, thus reducing risk. We do not know which vaccine of the candidates is going to be successful, so if all countries put their resources to a vaccine that in the end does not work, then they will have very little to choose from afterwards, but if they put the resources to a common fund that finances to several candidates, and a couple of them are successful, because they will have more negotiating power and a framework to get these vaccines to the population that is fair and equal, "he explained
The World Health Organization is in weekly talks with countries to reach an agreement to share the possible limited supply of vaccines later this year.
"For example, if at the end of this year we have 50 to 100 million doses, how should the world share that? Should I go only to countries that can afford it for their populations, or should I go to protect health workers or the most vulnerable people? This is something that the international community needs to discuss, "he said.
Responding to a question about the patents on these vaccines, the expert assured that licenses can be obtained if everyone agrees, but that the real problem will be having the physical capacity to manufacture the immunizations to the level that is needed, as well as to distribute them justly.