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Vaccines will not arrive in time to beat second wave: WHO director

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GENEVA: The World Health Organisation's (WHO) emergencies director warned that vaccines would not arrive in time to defeat the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The WHO's Dr Michael Ryan said vaccines should not be seen as a "unicorn" magic solution - and countries battling a resurgence of the virus would once again have to "climb this mountain" without them.

"I think it's at least four to six months before we have significant levels of vaccination going on anywhere," he said, during a public question and answer session live on social media.

Despite recent promising announcements from final-phase candidate vaccine trials, "We're not there with vaccines yet," said Dr Ryan.

"Many countries are going through this wave, and they're going to go through this wave, and continue through this wave, without vaccines.

"We need to understand and internalise that, and realise: we have got to climb this mountain this time, without vaccines."


Pfizer said on Wednesday that a completed study of its experimental vaccine showed it was 95 per cent effective, while fellow US firm Moderna said this week that its own candidate was 94.5 per cent effective.

Russia claims its candidate is more than 90 per cent effective.

Dr Ryan warned against slackening off individual vigilance against the virus in the mistaken belief that vaccines would now solve the problem instead.

"Some people think a vaccine will be, in a sense, the solution: the unicorn we've all been chasing. It's not," the Irishman said.

"If we add vaccines and forget the other things, Covid does not go to zero."

Meanwhile, a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and Oxford University produced a strong immune response in older adults, giving hope it may protect some of those most vulnerable to the disease, data from mid-stage trials showed.

The data, reported in part last month but published in full in The Lancet medical journal, suggest that those aged over 70 - who are at higher risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19 - could build robust immunity to the pandemic disease, researchers said. - AFP, REUTERS