Story at a glance

  • WHO officials Tuesday called the coronavirus a global threat.
  • The virus has killed more than 1,100 people and infected more than 45,000 worldwide.
  • At least 13 cases have been confirmed in the U.S.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday the first vaccine for the coronavirus that has left more than 1,100 dead and infected 45,000 worldwide could be available in an estimated 18 months. 

“The development of vaccines and therapeutics is one important part of the research agenda. But it’s only one part. They will take time to develop — but in the meantime, we are not defenseless,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference Tuesday. 

“The first vaccine could be ready in 18 months, so we have to do everything today using the available weapons to fight this virus,” he said. 

Although 99 percent of cases remain in China, Tedros called the disease a global threat, comparing its potential with that of “any terrorist action.” He said the world must wake up and consider the virus as public enemy number one. 

A Chinese drug manufacturer is currently working with U.S. company Gilead Sciences to develop a drug that could fight the virus. Meanwhile, BrightGene Bio-MEdical Technology Co. says they synthesized the active ingredients in Remdesivir, a drug developed during the Ebola outbreak from 2014-2016, for potential treatment of the novel coronavirus. 

The epidemic has killed more people than the SARS outbreak that hit China in 2003, when more than 770 people were killed and 8,000 were infected. 

WHO reported Tuesday there were 393 cases in 24 countries outside China. In the U.S., there are currently 13 confirmed cases.

Published on Feb 12, 2020