WHO Tempers Quick Vaccine Hopes

The World Health Organization says that it does not anticipate widespread immunisation against Covid-19 until mid-2021, despite growing hopes in the United States, the worst-hit country, that the vaccine could be released within weeks.  

The Geneva-based WHO also maintained that it will never support a vaccine that has not proved to be safe and reliable, in the midst of questions about the rush to produce a Jab for Covid-19, reports AFP.

The disease killed nearly 870,000 people and infected more than 26 million others worldwide, destroyed hundreds of millions of lives and ravaged the global economy.

The UN Health Agency welcomed the fact that a "significant number" of vaccine candidates had entered the final phase of testing, normally involving tens of thousands of people.

But "in terms of realistic timing, we're just not expecting widespread vaccination until the middle of next year," said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris.

– ‘Trials too small’ –

Russia has already approved the vaccine, and research published in The Lancet Medical Journal on Friday confirmed that early-test patients developed antibodies with "no significant adverse effects."

But scientists warned that the trials were too small — only 76 participants — to prove safety and effectiveness.

Washington also urged US states to prepare for a possible vaccine roll-out by November 1, raising fear that President Donald Trump's administration is trying to start administering the vaccine ahead of the November 3 elections.

The United States has suffered the highest number of deaths and illnesses of any country in the world. Under standard protocols, test managers must wait months or years to check that the vaccine candidates are safe and reliable.

Yet there was tremendous pressure to carry out the vaccine rapidly as the pandemic begins to take its toll.

– Celebrities hit –

Celebrities and public figures have not been spared, with Italy's flamboyant former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, admitted to sick hospital.

The list also includes three Paris Saint-Germain footballers, including Neymar, a Brazilian star.

Also on the list are film stars Tom Hanks and, more recently, Robert Pattinson, whom Hollywood commercial publications reported to have contracted the disease while shooting the new Batman movie in Britain.

Berlusconi spent the night in a hospital in Milan where he is being treated for a lung infection, but where the situation is said to be "encouraging."

The 83-year-old billionaire tested positive earlier this week after returning from a holiday on Sardinia’s jet-set Emerald Coast.

– Workers avoiding office –

Across the globe, companies and individuals are counting the costs of the pandemic, while flare-ups continue to push policymakers to enforce restrictions.

France has reported 8,975 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the highest daily since the pandemic hit the country last March.

The rise is coming as Paris and other cities have begun to require face masks in all public places, including children over the age of 11 who have returned to school this week. The 46th Deauville American Film Festival in Normandy opened Friday night with people wearing masks and social distances. But there were just a few if any, American movie stars this year.

Even in areas where curbs have eased, those who can work from home prefer to keep doing so rather than return to the office.

In London’s normally bustling centre, eateries once packed with customers are suffering.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson 's government is trying to encourage people to go back to office, but that's easier said than done.

Oil giant BP, which is cutting 10,000 jobs after a pandemic of collapsed energy demand and costs, is aggressively encouraging non-front-line workers to operate from home.

At Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds banks, meanwhile, much of the staff is working remotely.

– Tentative recovery –

It is not all bad news, though.

Both the US and Canadian economies added employment in August, an early indication of a pandemic rebound. And for companies in particular industries, such as personal protective equipment, Covid-19 has caused such a strong demand that they are struggling to keep up.

Malaysian rubber glove manufacturer Top Glove said it is seeing orders for 11-12 billion a month, compared with 4.5 billion prior to the pandemic.

The downside? Customers must now wait much longer for their orders to be filled than the normal delivery of 30-40 days, said chief executive, Lim Wee Chai.

In addition, with raw materials in short supply, production costs are also rising.

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