US won't participate in WHO-led global coronavirus vaccine effort
The United States, the worst-affected country in the pandemic, on Tuesday said it won't be participating in the global effort to develop and distribute coronavirus vaccine because it is led by World Health Organization (WHO). President Donald Trump's administration had in July snapped ties with WHO, claiming it was influenced by China. US was also displeased with WHO's handling of the pandemic. Here's more.
Will defeat virus, won't be constrained by multilateral organizations: US
In a statement, White House Spokesperson Judd Deere said, "The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China." Deere said the President will ensure a possible vaccine meets FDA's "gold standard for safety and efficacy," and is tested thoroughly.
WHO started COVAX initiative, its aim is "equitable access"
Last month, details about WHO's initiative pertaining to the coronavirus vaccine emerged. Termed COVAX, the initiative is co-led by Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the Gavi vaccine alliance. The aim is to expedite a vaccine's development by getting funds from wealthier nations and distribute it equally among all countries, while giving preferential treatment to high-risk individuals.
Unprecedented challenge requires unprecedented cooperation: WHO Chief
About the initiative, WHO said earlier COVAX has the world's "largest and most diverse COVID-19 vaccine portfolio." It involves nine CEPI-supported candidates while nine others are in consideration. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had also called for "unprecedented cooperation between governments, researchers, manufacturers, and multilateral partners" in the fight against the disease, which has killed 861,251 globally. Reportedly, 150 countries have come on-board.
After latest decision, Operation Warp Speed takes the spotlight
With the US distancing itself from the WHO-led campaign, it is naturally placing bets on Operation Warp Speed — a program of the Trump administration meant to accelerate vaccine development. Deere added, "Under President Trump vaccine and therapeutic research, development, and trials have advanced at unprecedented speed to deliver groundbreaking, effective medicines driven by data and safety and not held back by government red tape."
Go-alone approach not good for US: Congressman Ami Bera
However, the federal government's decision sparked criticism in the US. Rep. Ami Bera said the fight against the highly-contagious disease could be hugely compromised now. "Joining COVAX is a simple measure to guarantee US access to a vaccine — no matter who develops it first. This go-it-alone approach leaves America at risk of not getting a vaccine," Bera, who is also a physician, tweeted.
Americans could be isolated from an effective vaccine: Tom Hart
Similarly, Tom Hart, North America director of The ONE Campaign, said, "Not only does this move put the lives of millions around the world at risk, but it could also completely isolate Americans from an effective vaccine against COVID-19."
Meanwhile, two vaccines entered Phase-3 trials
To note, two vaccines, one developed by Moderna and another by Pfizer/BioNTech, reached Phase-3 trials in the US; two others could enter this stage by mid-September. Incumbent Trump, who was slammed for his approach towards the pandemic, has pinned hopes on a vaccine, telling citizens repeatedly that an effective one could be available by 2021-end. Across the US, a staggering 188,900 have died.
Earlier FDA hinted it would not "wait" for last-stage trials
On Sunday, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said that the organization could authorize a vaccine before last-stage trials are complete if the benefits outweigh risks in its assessment. The remarks, made in an interview with Financial Times, weren't welcomed generously by WHO, with Emergencies Program Head Mike Ryan saying, "If you move too quickly to vaccinate millions of people you may miss certain adverse effects."