The World Health Organization has said it needed at least US $100 billion for its programme that seeks to accelerate the development and manufacture of a novel Coronavirus vaccine, and ensure that it is equitably accessible to everyone. And, it has indicated, that possibly not even ten per cent of that amount has so far been realised.
In April this year, the WHO had launched Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator programme aimed at accelerating the development, production, and equitable access to tests, treatments and vaccines for the Covid-19 disease. The vaccine arm of this international collaborative initiative is called COVAX.
WHO has invited countries to join this initiative and voluntarily contribute funds to support the rapid development of vaccines, scale-up of manufacturing capacities, and strengthening of the delivery mechanisms. At a press conference on Monday, WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus indicated that the progress, at least on raising funds, was not satisfactory.
“There is a vast global gap between our ambition for the ACT-Accelerator and the amount of funds that have been committed. While we are grateful for those that have made contributions, we are only 10 per cent of the way to funding the billions required to realise the promise of the ACT Accelerator,” Ghebreyesus said.
“And this is only part of the global investment needed to ensure everyone everywhere can access the tools. For the vaccines alone, over US$ 100 billion will be needed. This sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But it is small in comparison to the 10 trillion dollars that have already been invested by G20 countries in fiscal stimulus to deal with the consequences of the pandemic so far,” he said.
Through the COVAX mechanism, the WHO has been trying to get the countries to pool in their resources to support the rapid development of multiple vaccine candidates. It is hoping that at least a few of them would finally be approved for public use. The countries that join the initiative would then have assured supplies of this vaccine. The support is meant not just for development of the vaccine, but also for ramping up manufacturing capacities, so that the billions of doses that are required, are produced quickly. The WHO aims to ensure the distribution of at least 2 billion doses of vaccines through the COVAX programme, mainly in the middle and low-income countries, by the end of 2021.
WHO also said that while it believed that a “safe and effective” vaccine would be ready quite soon, the bigger challenge was producing it large amounts and making it accessible to those who need it the most.
“The challenge is going to be scaling up production and allocating those vaccines in a way that does the most good around the world and stops this virus to the greatest extent possible, paying for all that and preparing national systems to deliver this,” Mike Ryan, the head of WHO’s Health Emergency Programme, said.
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Hundreds of vaccines for the novel Coronavirus are being developed across the world, about 30 of which are in different stages of testing on human beings. The overwhelming view right now is that a Coronavirus vaccine would become a reality by early 2021, if not by the end of this year itself. A vaccine being developed in Russia is tipped to be approved by the regulatory authorities this week itself, though there is a lot of scepticism regarding the effectiveness of that vaccine.
Another Chinese vaccine enters phase-3 trials
A vaccine candidate being developed by CanSino Biologicals, a Chinese company, in collaboration with the country’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, is beginning phase-3 human trials in Saudi Arabia, according to a news report in The New York Times. Interestingly, this vaccine has already been recommended for Chinese military, even before the results of phase-2 trials were out. This is the only vaccine against novel Coronavirus that has been approved right now, though it is meant only for limited use, on the Chinese military personnel.
This is the fourth Chinese vaccine to go into phase-3 trials.
HUNT FOR CORONAVIRUS VACCINE: THE STORY SO FAR
- More than 160 vaccine candidates in pre-clinical or clinical trials
- 23 of them in clinical trials
- Six in final stages, phase-III of human trials
- At least eight candidate vaccines being developed in India. Two of these have entered phase -II trials after completing phase-I.
(Source: WHO Coronavirus vaccine landscape of July 31, 2020)
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