GENEVA – The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Monday that “this is not the time for complacency” despite encouraging recent results from trials of coronavirus candidate vaccines, given the sharp increase in cases in regions such as Europe or America.
While Tedro said the news that the efficacy rate of more than 90% of these potential vaccines, announced on Monday by US firm Moderna, and by Pfizer-BioNTech last week, was “encouraging” and health authorities “remain cautiously optimistic about the potential for new tools” to fight coronavirus, the WHO is “extremely concerned by the surging cases we are seeing, particularly in Europe and the Americas.”
On Saturday, a record 660,000 new coronavirus infections were reported.
“Health workers and health systems are being pushed to the breaking point,” Tedros said.
The WHO director-general also warned that a worrying number of COVID-19 patients are being detected with long-term health consequences after overcoming the disease.
He said that every country must use all of the resources at their disposal to continue fighting the spread of the coronavirus, from tracking cases to quarantining those who are suspected of being affected, and warned that not doing so “can lead to death, suffering and effects to their economies.”
The chief scientist of the WHO, Soumya Swaminathan, welcomed the aforementioned 94.5% efficacy of the vaccine developed by the US biotech firm Moderna, although she pointed out that “more data must be taken into account and possible effects on patients must be expected for at least two months.”
Moderna, unlike Pfizer-BioNTech, is on the list of laboratories whose funding for the development of anti-COVID vaccines is supported financially by the WHO and the international community through the COVAX program and in exchange for facilities in their distribution in poor countries.
Swaminathan clarified that before deciding which anti-COVID vaccines, and from which laboratories, would be distributed globally as part of the program, different criteria will be taken into account: not only the effectiveness but also the cost, storage facilities, and the number of doses needed, among others.