'Accelerated effort' underway on eight leading candidates for coronavirus vaccine

12 May 2020, 09:11

The Institute of Virology of the Philipps University of Marburg is involved in the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus
The Institute of Virology of the Philipps University of Marburg is involved in the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus. Picture: PA

By Megan White

An accelerated effort is underway to develop a coronavirus vaccine, with up to eight leading candidates, the World Health Organisation (WHO) chief said on Monday.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a UN Economic and Social Council video briefing the original thinking two months ago was that it may take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine.

But he said an accelerated effort was under way, helped by 7.4 billion euros (£6.4 billion) pledged a week ago by leaders from 40 countries, organisations and banks for research, treatment and testing.

He said these funds would not be enough, and additional money would be needed to speed up the development of a vaccine, but more importantly to produce enough "to make sure that this vaccine reaches everyone - (and) there's no one be left behind".

Dr Tedros' comments came as the UK's death toll rose to 32,065 on Monday.

He said: "We have good candidates now. The top ones are around seven, eight. But we have more than a hundred candidates.

"We are focusing on the few candidates we have which can bring probably better results and accelerating those candidates with better potential."

Dr Tedros did not identify the top candidates.

Since January, he said, the WHO had been "working with thousands of researchers all over the world to accelerate and track vaccine development from developing animal models to clinical trial designs and everything in between".

Dr Tedros said there was also a consortium of more than 400 scientists involved in vaccine development and diagnostics.

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The WHO chief stressed Covid-19 was "very contagious and it's a killer," with more than four million cases now reported to WHO and some 280,000 lives lost.

While new cases were declining in Western Europe, they were increasing in Eastern Europe, Africa, southeast Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and other regions, he said.

Dr Tedros stressed that as the response to Covid-19 continues, nations must also lay the foundations for a healthy, safer and fairer world.

"The world spends around $7.5 trillion (£6.1 trillion) on health care each year, almost 10 percent of global GDP, but the best investments are in promoting health and in preventing disease at the primary health care level which will save lives and save money," Dr Tedros said.

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