vaccine race

Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organization. (FAO/IANS photo)

GENEVA – After admitting that the world may have a Covid-19 vaccine within one year or even a few months earlier, the World Health Organization June 26 said that UK-based AstraZeneca is leading the vaccine race while U.S.-based pharmaceutical major Moderna is not far behind.

WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan stated that AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine candidate is the most advanced vaccine currently in terms of development.

"I think AstraZeneca certainly has a more global scope at the moment in terms of where they are doing and planning their vaccine trials," she told the media.

AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine candidate developed by researchers from the Oxford University will likely provide protection against the disease for one year, the British drug maker's CEO told Belgian radio station Bel RTL this month.

The Oxford University last month announced the start of a Phase II/III UK trial of the vaccine, named AZD1222 (formerly known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19), in about 10,000 adult volunteers. Other late-stage trials are due to begin in a number of countries.

Last week, Swaminathan had said that nearly 2 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine would be ready by the end of next year.

Addressing the media from Geneva, she said that "at the moment, we do not have a proven vaccine but if we are lucky, there will be one or two successful candidates before the end of this year" and 2 billion doses by the end of next year.

Scientists predict that the world may have a Covid-19 vaccine within one year or even a few months earlier, said the Director-General of the World Health Organization even as he underlined the importance of global cooperation to develop, manufacture and distribute the vaccines.

However, making the vaccine available and distributing it to all will be a challenge and will require political will, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on June 25 during a meeting with the European Parliament's Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

One option would be to give the vaccine only to those who are most vulnerable to the virus.

There are currently over 100 Covid-19 vaccine candidates in various stages of development.

In related news, the WHO-led global response to Covid-19 needs $31.3 billion for therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics over the next 12 months, including two billion doses of vaccines.

The money would go to the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, or ACT-Accelerator, a global collaboration initiated in April to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. Xinhua reported.

The WHO said June 26 some $3.4 billion has been contributed to date, resulting in a funding gap of $27.9 billion, of which $13.7 billion of the remaining gap is urgently needed. It plans to scale up delivery of 500 million tests and 245 million courses of treatments to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by mid-2021, as well as two billion vaccine doses, of which one billion to be purchased for LMICs, by the end of 2021.

"The good news is we have over 200 vaccine candidates at some stage of clinical development, 15 of them are now on human clinical trials," said Swaminathan.

According to her, at least four Chinese companies are ready going from phase two to phase three trails for vaccine candidates and the WHO is in the process of exchanging documents, signing confidentiality agreement with them in order to provide advice and support, and facilitate conduct of clinical trials.

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