Story at a glance
- Officials at the World Health Organization don't expect an effective COVID-19 vaccine to be ready until mid-2021.
- The agency launched COVAX, a global initiative to share COVID-19 treatments between countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t expect a COVID-19 vaccine to be widely available until mid-2021, according to Reuters.
Despite dozens of vaccine candidates entering various levels of clinical trials, Margaret Harris, a spokesperson from the WHO, said that none of the vaccine hopefuls have shown a “clear signal” of efficacy by at least 50 percent, the threshold expected by the WHO.
“We are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,” Harris reportedly said during a U.N. meeting in Geneva.
Although some companies are well into phase three trials on human subjects, including Pfizer, AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and Moderna, Harris noted that the human trials demand longer periods of time to gauge the effectiveness of the vaccine.
“This phase 3 must take longer because we need to see how truly protective the vaccine is and we also need to see how safe it is,” she explained.
Harris also underscored the importance of transparent data resulting from each of the companies’ studies. This comes as Russia authorized production of a COVID-19 vaccine after only two months of human trials, raising concerns about the safety of the drug.
“A lot of people have been vaccinated and what we don’t know is whether the vaccine works,” Harris said.
The WHO has been at the forefront of ensuring that any coronavirus treatments of vaccines will be distributed equitably across the globe, recently decrying vaccine hoarding by wealthier nations.
To combat this issue, it launched COVAX, an initiative that would help developing nations access coronavirus treatments and vaccines.
When a reliable COVID-19 vaccine candidate is approved, COVAX will work to produce and distribute 2 billion doses globally by the end of 2021.
“Essentially, the door is open. We are open. What the COVAX is about is making sure everybody on the planet will get access to the vaccines,” Harris said.
Some countries have opted out of participating in the COVAX initiative, including the U.S.