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Source: United Nations (Video News)

(Excerpts) While news about COVID-19 vaccines are “encouraging,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, today (16 Nov) said “this is not the time for complacency.”

Dr Tedros said the WHO remains “cautiously optimistic about the potential for new tools to start to arrive in the coming months,” but “right now, we are extremely concerned by the surge in cases we’re seeing in some countries,” particularly in Europe and the Americas, where “health workers and health systems are being pushed to the breaking point.”

The Director-General stressed that “this is a dangerous virus, which can attack every system in the body,” adding that “those countries that are letting the virus run unchecked are playing with fire.”

Dr Tedros said, “there is no excuse for inaction” and “a laissez-faire attitude to the virus – not using the full range of tools available – leads to death, suffering and hurts livelihoods and economies.”

He said “it’s not a choice between lives or livelihoods. The quickest way to open up economies is to defeat the virus.”

WHO’s Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said, “one very encouraging thing is to see that at least with the two mRNA vaccine results that we’ve heard, Pfizer and Moderna, that we seem to be achieving high efficacy. But there are many, many questions still remaining about the duration of protection, the impact on severe disease, the impact on different sub-populations, especially the elderly, as well as the adverse events, beyond a certain period of time. So, we also hope that the clinical trials will continue to collect data because that’s really going to be important for us to know about in the long-term. And we’re looking forward to getting more results in the coming weeks from the other vaccine trials, that are currently in progress.”

Assistant Director-General Dr Mariângela Simão said, “there are challenges in the implementation, but we are also aiming through the COVAX Facility in ensuring that countries will have a chance, an opportunity to have access to the vaccines they prefer in due time, and that we don’t have a long lagging period between these vaccines reaching developing countries and developed countries.”

For her part, WHO’s Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, Dr Katherine O’Brien, said, “getting to vaccine efficacy is like building base camp at Everest. But the climb to the peak is really about delivering the vaccines. And this cannot be overemphasized, that the people who need to receive these vaccines are the ones who really are the focus.”

WHO’s COVID-19 Technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said, “there have been 65 cases” associated with WHO headquarters staff, out of which “36 have had access to the premises.”