GENEVA / ZURICH (Reuters) – The number of deaths from the coronavirus could double to 2 million before a successful vaccine is widely distributed, and it could be even greater without joint action to contain the pandemic, a World Organization official said. of Health this Friday.
“Unless we do that, any number you say (2 million deaths) is not only imaginable, but unfortunately very likely,” said Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergency program in an interview on Friday.
His view was shared at a time when the total number of deaths nine months since the virus was discovered in China is approaching the terrible 1 million mark.
“We are not out of danger anywhere yet, we are not out of danger in Africa,” said Ryan.
He said young people should not be blamed for a recent spike in infections, despite growing fears that they are fueling its spread after restrictions and isolations have been relaxed around the world.
“I really hope we don’t start pointing the finger: it’s all the young people’s fault,” said Ryan. “The last thing a young person needs is an elderly person pontificating and pointing his finger.”
In fact, meetings of people of all ages indoors are driving the epidemic, he said.
WHO continues to talk to China about its possible involvement with the Covax funding scheme to ensure rapid and equal global access to vaccines against Covid-19 a week after the membership deadline expires.
“We are talking to China about the role it can play from now on,” said Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to WHO and head of the ACT-Accelerator program to support vaccines, treatments and diagnoses against Covid-19.
He confirmed that Taiwan has joined the scheme, although it is not a WHO member, bringing the total number of participants to 159. About 34 are still deciding.
The dealings with China also include a debate over whether the world’s second largest economy will provide vaccines for the mechanism, he said.
The agency of the Organization of the Nations (UN) published on Friday an outline of the criteria for the evaluation of the emergency use of vaccines against Covid-19 to help guide pharmaceutical companies as the vaccine tests reach advanced stages, said the director WHO assistant general, Mariangela Simao.
The document will be available for public comment until October 8, she said.
Earlier on Friday, a Chinese health official said that WHO supported the country to start administering experimental coronavirus vaccines while clinical trials are still ongoing.
(By Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge in Geneva and Michael Shields in Zurich)