WHO Hopes For A Few Hundred Million Covid-19 Vaccine Doses By 2021

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow) the virus that causes COVID-19.  NIAID

So far, the Covid-19 pandemic has been responsible for the deaths of more than 450,000 people worldwide, a quarter of which are in the US alone. Overcoming this global threat requires an effective vaccine, and the World Health Organization (WHO) hopes that by the end of the year, a few hundred doses will be ready, reaching 2 billion by the end of 2021.

Currently, there is no effective vaccine but several dozens are in the works, with 10 well into human trials and others starting soon. There is no certainty that one specific vaccine will work, but there is the confidence that among the many trials, one or more will be effective. Some vaccines are now moving to Phase III Trials and we will soon know if any work or not.

“We are entering a new phase now of vaccine trials, the Phase III trials, the ones that will definitely prove whether or not the vaccine is efficacious and safe,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist of the World Health Organization, during a press conference. “I’m hopeful, I’m optimistic. But vaccine development is a complex undertaking. It comes with a lot of uncertainty. The good thing is we have many vaccine candidates and platforms, so even if the first one fails, or the second one fails, we shouldn’t lose hope, we shouldn’t give up.”

Dr Swaminathan also mentioned that the WHO is working with its member states on how to allocate the vaccine and how to best distribute them among frontline workers, the elderly, and people with other diseases. No further details were shared in the video.

While we won't know about the efficacy of the vaccines for a few months, a recent trial has shown that the drug dexamethasone is effective in extremely sick Covid-19 patients, in particular those that have been put on a ventilator. This welcome breakthrough is likely to save many lives worldwide.

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