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WHO hopes to roll out vaccines for all in February

 GENEVA:The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) called Monday for a collective commitment so that within the next 100 days, coronavirus vaccination for health workers and those at higher risk in all countries can begin, with one official saying the hope is for a rollout during February.

 

At a bi-weekly press webinar, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said that a year ago, the first death from COVID-19 was reported.

 

The world health body issued technical guidance on such issues as surveillance, lab testing, infection prevention and control, a readiness checklist, risk communication and community engagement.

 

"A year on, there have been almost 2 million deaths from the COVID-19 virus, and while we are hopeful about the safe and effective vaccines that are being rolled out, we want to see this sped up and vaccines allocated equitably in the coming weeks," he said.

 

"I call for a collective commitment so that within the next 100 days, vaccinations for health workers and those at high risk in all countries are underway."

 

He said governments, manufacturers, civil society and religious and community leaders must unite to create the “greatest mass mobilization in history for equitable vaccination.”

 

 

 WHO senior adviser Dr. Bruce Aylward said: "Over 40 countries have now begun vaccinating against COVID-19. However, all of the vaccinations, or virtually all, were in high-income or middle-income countries so far.

 

"We have got to see vaccines going into arms in lower and lower-middle income countries."

 

"Over 40 countries have now begun vaccinating against COVID-19 using five different vaccines.

 

He said the WHO is working to accelerate the vaccines' rollout through the COVAX facility, which seeks to get them to lower and middle-income Advance Market Commitment (AMC) countries, 92 nations in Africa, the Americas and Asia.

 

"We expect in strong confidence that we should be able to be vaccinating in February in these countries, but we cannot do that on our own," said Aylward.

 

"We require the cooperation of vaccine manufacturers to prioritize."

 

There is also a need for financial cooperation and assistance.

 

"And we require the cooperation of those key suppliers to make sure that we have the necessary data to ensure these vaccines meet all the criteria necessary in terms of efficacy, safety and quality."

 

Dr. Kate O'Brien, WHO director of immunization and vaccines, noted the need for readiness to put vaccines into arms.

 

"We've been hearing about high-income countries that are working really hard but struggling to deploy the vaccines that they have.

 

"So I think we really cannot underestimate the task that it is for a country to be ready to start to deploy any of these vaccines,” she said.

 

She noted vaccines like that, particularly from Pfizer, require special cold chain processes keeping the vaccine at between minus 60 and 90 C.

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