A CORONAVIRUS vaccine could be more than two years away in a blow that could cripple the global economy, former New Zealand leader Helen Clark has warned.
Her warning comes as she has been named to co-chair a panel to review the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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The former Prime Minister called for a dramatic increase in global action to save countries from collapse should the coronavirus pandemic get worse.
The findings from her introspective investigation could take more than a year to publish, but Ms Clark is hopeful it will help mankind learn lessons from global outbreak.
However, she warned the virus threat is likely to last for several years as a vaccine is still a long way off – potentially not arriving until late 2022.
Most scientists believe developing the inoculation is the only safe way life can return to how it was before the pandemic.
She said: “I’m told from Geneva that the most optimistic scenario for a widely available vaccine would be at least two and a half years.
“And even then we don’t know how efficacious it would be – it may not stop us getting it, it may simply mitigate the impact of getting it.
“In the end, a disease like this, like a plague of ancient times, will keep going as long as hosts present themselves for it, so we have to cut the transmission cycle.”
The warning counters some of the optimistic claims for the development of the first vaccines to counter Covid-19.
The Milken Institute is tracking at least 180 vaccine projects around the world – with British scientists hoping for a breakthrough by September.
Ms Clark – who led New Zealand from 1999 to 2008 – will be working alongside former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to lead a WHO panel investigating its own handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
She called on the world’s nations to step up to help tackle the looming economic fallout of the pandemic.
The former world leader said the world faces a “$2.5trillion crisis”.
She warned some nations would “go over a cliff” with dire effects on their neighbours unless the G20 develops a joint response.
She said: “No-one has stepped up from the G20 to say ‘we have to act’ even when it is not in anybody’s interest to have one economy after another fall over.”
Ms Clark added: “I think it can get worse if the G20 doesn’t mobilise the support required for the international financial institutions to do their job.”
Britain is already feeling the pinch from the pandemic, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirming the economy has shrunk by 25 per cent in just two months.
It come as the US formally notified WHO on Tuesday that it will be withdrawing from the UN body in 2021.
WHO has come under heavy criticism over the pandemic, with US President Donald Trump’s alleging it was too “China-centric”.
Ms Clark said: “I feel in a sense that the coordination was left to rest on the WHO’s shoulders when it had spun out into a crisis that was far greater than the WHO could cope with.”
She described the task ahead as “exceptionally challenging” – with the virus having infected more than 12million people worldwide and killed almost 550,000.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said announced the inquiry at a virtual meeting with representatives of WHO’s 195 member states.
He said: “The magnitude of this pandemic, which has touched virtually everyone in the world, clearly deserves a commensurate evaluation, an honest evaluation.
“This is not a standard report that ticks a box and is then put on a shelf to gather dust. This is something we take seriously.”
The panel will produce its first findings in November before presenting a “substantive report” in May.