The World Health Organization on Monday called on countries to continue to implement safety measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, such as restricting public gatherings and protecting vulnerable groups as they try to reopen businesses and services.
“The more countries have control over the virus, the more they can open up. Opening without control is a recipe for disaster,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreesus during a virtual briefing at the UN Health Agency headquarters. in Geneva. “No country can just pretend that the pandemic is over.”
Tedros outlined “four key things that all countries, communities and individuals need to focus on in order to take control.” He said the parties should “prevent the escalation of events”, which he said many countries associate with large gatherings in stadiums, nightclubs and places of worship. He added that states and people can find “creative ways” to be social.
He added that countries must prevent deaths by protecting vulnerable people, including the elderly, people with disabilities and key workers. This will help save lives and ease the burden on countries’ health systems, Tedros said.
Tedros also said that “people have to play their part” by wearing masks, socially distancing themselves and washing their hands often. He added that governments can avoid orders to stay at home by applying targeted outbreak responses through testing, contact tracking and isolation.
“If countries are serious about opening up, they need to be serious about suppressing surrender and saving lives,” he said. “It may seem like an impossible balance, but it’s not. It can be done and it has been done.”
Tedros added that the WHO had recently published guidelines on how hotels, cargo ships and fishing vessels could safely resume operations as “part of our commitment to support each sector to open as safely as possible”.
WHO officials said the so-called new rule would include at least some mitigation measures, such as social distancing and wearing masks. Earlier, the WHO said that such measures are likely to have to be followed in many countries, even after the vaccine is eventually released.
According to the WHO, dozens of vaccine manufacturers have begun testing their candidates for coronavirus vaccines, and at least two have begun large-scale phase three studies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, said over the weekend that his agency would consider authorizing an emergency vaccine before the third-phase clinical trial is fully completed.
But Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, warned on Monday that authorizing a vaccine too early and with too little data could create various problems.
“The risk of approving a vaccine prematurely for us is that it will be very difficult in the first place to continue randomized clinical trials,” she said. “And secondly, there is a risk of introducing a vaccine that has been insufficiently studied and may prove to be of low efficacy, thus not doing the job of ending this pandemic or even worse, having a safety profile that does not is acceptable. ”
She added that the emergency use of the vaccine should be done “with a high dose of seriousness”, especially because it could lead to adverse side effects in some sections of the population. She added that the decision must be made using as much safety and efficacy data as possible.
“Scientists around the world are united in calling for agencies and companies, and most companies have supported this position that vaccine approval should be based on data from the third phase of clinical trials,” Suminanathan said.
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergency program, echoed Swaminathan, saying that collecting and monitoring vast amounts of data is crucial as nations begin to distribute vaccines to their general populations. As the vaccine is introduced into larger and perhaps more diverse sections of the population, adverse side effects may occur, emphasizing the importance of collecting safety data.
“The difficulty and challenge with the vaccine right now is that we are moving from vaccinating tens or hundreds of people to now vaccinating thousands of people,” he said. “We need to take safety and efficacy data from these studies. Because if you move on to vaccinating millions or hundreds of millions or billions of people too quickly, we may miss some side effects that you will not take with fewer, so monitoring must be maintained. “
He added that there are strict regulations on the emergency use of vaccines and medicines in the European Union and the United States, as well as in some parts of Africa and India. It is crucial that governments are guided by their regulatory agencies, he said.
“Each country has the sovereign right to determine its vaccination policy or any other therapeutic intervention in its population, but it must be guided by the highest possible ethical standards, the highest possible scientific standards,” he said.