Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID – 19): WHO Update, research and development (02 July 2020)

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A WHO official said the Organization was “encouraged” by the progress made on candidate COVID-19 vaccines and was “looking forward” to clinical trial results as five vaccines move into phase two of research and one moved to phase three.

At a press conference in Geneva today (02 Jul), WHO Medical Officer Ana Maria Henao Restrepo said a candidate vaccine from the University of Oxford, ChAdOx1, has move to phase three. She said WHO was waiting for the results of clinical trial to know to know the pace of the progress on all the candidate vaccines.

SOUNDBITE (English) Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, Medical Officer, R&D Blueprint, World Health Organization (WHO):
“Whether or not we will have the vaccine in a given timeline depends on factors that cannot be anticipated. What is good is that there is a lot of consensus, a lot of work together a lot of collaboration. As Soumya mentioned, there is a number of global enterprises and collaborative efforts to accelerate the evaluation of these vaccines and moreover, the availability. So for now on the pipeline continues to be a healthy pipeline, we have nearly 150 candidate vaccines moving forward with evaluation and every day gives us more hope, but we will not know when we will have the vaccine until we have the result on efficacy.”

WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said there are many trials still ongoing on remdesivir, including the solidarity trial that is looking at mortality benefit. She said, “What we know up to now is from the publications that came out of China that did not show any benefit from remdesivir and the publication from the NIH, which showed a reduction in hospitalisation of about 30 percent. So, patients who got remdesivir had an average hospitalisation of 11 days versus 15 days for the ones who did not receive it.”

Swaminathan said the plan is to continue clinical to find answers on efficacy of remdesivir, “looking at mortality, looking at other clinical outcomes, but also establishing the impact that it would have on public health, because the benefit risk and the cost benefit ratio of interventions is extremely important when we talk about an intervention that’s going to be rolled out across the world.”

WHO’s COVID-19 Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove said the Organization and a number of countries into potentially testing wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 virus “to see if that could be a sentinel signal for whether or not the virus is circulating.” She said WHO was aware of the papers published on this issue, some of which have not gone through peer review, and was reaching out the authors to understand “how they’ve conducted those studies and what those can inform us going forward.”

WHO held a two half-day virtual summit on 1 and 2 July, to take stock of the evolving science on COVID-19 and examine progress made so far in developing effective health tools to improve the global response to the pandemic. The event brought together over 1,000 researchers, developers and funders from all over the world, all of whom shared approaches and raw data freely, in a show of solidarity from the global science community.

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