Around 180 vaccines to combat COVID-19 are in development worldwide, including 35 in human trials, the WHO chief said on Friday.
“No disease in history has seen such rapid development in research. It’s a testament to the incredible advances in science and technology the world has made in recent years,” Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.
“It must be matched by its ambition to ensure as many people as possible have access to them.”
When journalists asked about differing claims on vaccines’ arrival, including an aspiration by US President Donald Trump to have one by October, the WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said people should remember that “clinical trials take time.”
“We cannot rush them, because you have to collect enough data on enough number of people to satisfy ourselves and to satisfy the regulatory agencies that a particular drug or vaccine is safe,” she said.
Swaminathan said tens of thousands of people had to enroll in those clinical trials.
“Since a few trials did start in July, it is possible that we may start getting some results, at least interim results by the end of the year.”
Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO emergencies program director, admitted that developing a vaccine is a race.
“It’s a race against this virus, and it’s a race to save lives. It’s not a race between companies. It’s not a race between countries. It’s a race to support public health and the safest and most effective way possible.”
He said it was not a competition between drug companies which “to their credit” have come together.
“This is a race against time to race against the virus to race to save lives.”
The novel virus, which surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December, has infected nearly 28 million people, and claimed more than 905,000 lives in 188 countries and regions.
While China has largely contained the outbreak through a series of strict lockdowns and travel restrictions, there are concerns of a resurgence of the outbreak in Europe, where cases are rising.