Coronavirus vaccine distribution not possible before mid-2021: WHO chief scientist

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WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan [Image: The Wire]
WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan [Image: The Wire]

New Delhi : As the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic persists to loom over the globe, the World Health Organization's (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said that the worldwide distribution of vaccines on a mass level may take place by mid-2021.

While addressing a press briefing on Friday, Swaminathan said, “So practically speaking, probably the second half, the middle of 2021 - maybe the second quarter, the third quarter of 2021 - is when we can start seeing doses actually flowing into countries so that they can start to immunize their populations." 

"We expect results from some of the candidates, which are already in Phase 3 trials, to come by the end of the year or beginning of next year, following which they'll have to be scaling up manufacturing to produce the hundreds of millions of doses that are going to be needed. In fact, the world is going to need billions of doses, and that is going to take time to manufacture. So we have to be optimistic and realistic at the same time," further said Swaminathan.

The WHO has reported over 285,000 COVID-19 fresh cases on September 4 taking the total tally of the deadly virus infection to 2,61,71,112 which includes 8,65,154 deaths due to the virus. America remains the worst affected country with 60,50,444 cases, followed by Brazil with 39,97865 cases. 

There are vaccine candidates of several countries in the fray with India having three candidates. The Covaxin developed by Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech is in phase III of human trials while ZyCOV-D developed by Ahmedabad's Zydus Cadila and the Oxford University's vaccine developed in collaboration with Serum Institute of India are said to be in phase II. 

The US has two contenders -- Moderna Inc's vaccine which is also in phase III trials and another vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc in partnership with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech SE. 

Russia last month announced that it has already come up with the vaccine as Russian President Vladimir Putin also admitted administering a dose of the vaccine to his own daughter. Russia is also said to be in talks with Indian drug manufacturers for large scale manufacturing.

(With ANI inputs)