Describing it as the “most powerful public health tool” against the novel coronavirus, Robert Redfield, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, has said face masks offered much better protection against the infection than a vaccines would.
The CDC is the US equivalent of the Indian Council of Medical Research. Redfield was responding to questions from US lawmakers at a Senate sub-committee hearing.
“We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defence. I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid-19 than when I take a vaccine,” Redfield said.
While a coronavirus vaccine is likely to become available by early next year, if not towards the end of this year itself, no one knows as of now how effective these vaccines are likely to be. Prominent scientists and vaccine developers have suggested that the early vaccines might not be the most effective ones, and that we would be lucky if they provide protection to at least 75 per cent of those inoculated. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it would approve a coronavirus vaccine if was found to be safe and was at least 50 per cent effective.
Redfield urged people to continue wearing face masks even after a vaccine had become available, and said the pandemic could be brought quickly under control if face masks were adopted universally.
During the same hearing, Redfield also said a vaccine in the United States would not become widely available until the “late second quarter, or third quarter” of next year.
“If you are asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so that we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we are probably looking at third, late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” he said.
Trump repeats: Vaccine in three to four weeks
US President Donald Trump kept alive the speculation about a coronavirus vaccine becoming available before the November 3 Presidential elections, saying the United States could be “getting it” within four weeks.
“The previous administration would have taken perhaps years to have a vaccine, because of the FDA and all the approvals. We are within weeks of getting it. You know, could be three weeks, four weeks,” he said at a townhall event, according to a Bloomberg news report.
Three vaccine candidates are currently undergoing last-stage clinical trials in the United States. Of these, the trials of the one being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has been put on hold because an incident in which a trial participant in England had developed severe illnesses. The trials in England have since resumed after an independent expert committee had analysed the incident, but, in US, the pause on the trial remains.
The developer of another of these vaccines, Pfizer, has said it expected to know by October end how effective its vaccine was likely to be, and if this data was satisfactory it would immediately apply to the US FDA for an emergency authorisation.
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Vaccine distribution in US to start within 24 hours after authorisation, would be administered free of cost
The United States government was getting ready to start distributing a coronavirus vaccine within 24 hours of the vaccine getting an approval or emergency authorisation from the drug regulator. A report in The New York Times quoted officials of the Department of Health and Human Services as saying they were expecting that a vaccine would be available sometime in the last three months of this year, at least for high-priority groups like healthcare workers.
The same newspaper report also said the idea was to provide the vaccine free of cost to all Americans, though a decision on that was still pending. The United States government has already paid billions of dollars to several vaccine developers to pre-book guaranteed supplies of their candidates when they are ready and get approved. The money was meant to accelerate the development of the vaccine and also as advance payment for the hundreds of millions of doses of assured supplies.
Coronavirus vaccine must be a global public good, should be equally accessible to all, says WHO
The World Health Organisation has urged all countries to treat a coronavirus vaccine, when it becomes available, as “global public good” that must be equally accessible by all.
The WHO has released a “values framework” which is intended to guide governments and policymakers on allocation and prioritisation of a coronavirus vaccine so that it is first available to people who need it the most irrespective of the countries or regions they reside in.
“While there has been unprecedented progress in developing a vaccine against Covid-19, supplies of the first vaccine (or vaccines) to be authorised will be limited in the short to medium term. This Values Framework is intended to offer guidance globally on the allocation of Covid-19 vaccines between countries, and to offer guidance nationally on the prioritisation of groups for vaccination within countries, particularly when supply is limited,” the WHO said.
WHO director general Tedro Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked countries not to indulge in what has come to be known as ‘vaccine nationalism’ to refer to the tendencies of countries to hoard vaccines when they become available.
“The first priority must be to vaccinate some people in all countries, rather than all the people in some countries. Vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic, not shorten it,” he said.
Hunt for coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine: The story so far
- 180 vaccine candidates in pre-clinical or clinical trials
- 35 of them in clinical trials
- Eight 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.
- The ones most talked about
* AstraZeneca/Oxford University
* Johnson & Johnson
* Russian vaccine, developed by Gamaleya Insttiute in Moscow
(As on September 15; source: WHO Coronavirus vaccine landscape of September 9, 2020)
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