World must heal together | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 08, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 08, 2020

World must heal together

Says WHO chief, warns against ‘vaccine nationalism’; study shows asymptomatic coronavirus carriers have high viral loads

The World Health Organization has warned against "vaccine nationalism," saying vaccine-hogging richer countries would not be safe coronavirus havens if poor nations remained exposed.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it would be in wealthier nations' interests to ensure that any vaccines eventually produced to protect against the new coronavirus were shared globally.

"Vaccine nationalism is not good, it will not help us," Tedros told the Aspen Security Forum in the United States, via video-link from the WHO's headquarters in Geneva.

"For the world to recover faster, it has to recover together, because it's a globalised world: the economies are intertwined. Part of the world or a few countries cannot be a safe haven and recover.

"The damage from COVID-19 could be less when those countries who... have the funding commit to this."

He said the existence of the deadly respiratory disease anywhere put lives and livelihoods at risk everywhere.

"They are not giving charity to others: they are doing it for themselves, because when the rest of the world recovers and opens up, they also benefit."

The United Nations health agency also said that multiple different types of vaccines would likely be needed to combat COVID-19.

Twenty-six candidate vaccines are in various stages of being tested on humans, with six having reached Phase 3 wider levels of clinical trials.

"Phase 3 doesn't mean nearly there," explained the WHO's emergencies director Michael Ryan.

"Phase 3 means this is the first time this vaccine has been put into the general population, into otherwise healthy individuals, to see if the vaccine will protect them against natural infection.

However, "there's no guarantee that any of these six will give us the answer -- and we probably will need more than one vaccine to do this job."

Meanwhile, a new study from South Korea showed that people who are infected with the coronavirus carry similar levels of the pathogen in their nose, throat and lungs whether they have symptoms or not.

The paper, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, is an important biological line of evidence in support of the idea that asymptomatic carriers can spread COVID-19. Until now, experts have relied on inferring asymptomatic spread when people contract the virus without contact with a known carrier.

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