The number of deaths from the new 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. The statement was made by the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Program, Mike Ryan, this Friday (25).
“Unless we do that, any number you say is not only imaginable, but unfortunately very likely,” Ryan said in an interview.
He made the statement as the total death toll, nine months after 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,” he added.
For Mike Ryan, young people should not be blamed for a recent spike in infections, despite growing fears that they are spurring their spread after restrictions and isolations have been relaxed around the world.
“I really hope that we don’t start pointing the finger: it’s all the young people’s fault,” he said. “The last thing a young person needs is an elderly person pointing a 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 covid-19 vaccines 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 the disease.
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.
Negotiations with China also include a debate over whether the world’s second largest economy will provide vaccines for the facility, Aylward said.
The agency published on Friday a draft of the criteria for assessing the emergency use of vaccines against covid-19, to help guide pharmacists as the tests reach advanced stages, said the WHO assistant director-general, Mariangela Simao. The document will be available for public comment until October 8.
Also on Friday, a Chinese health official said the WHO had supported the country to start administering experimental vaccines against the new coronavirus, while clinical trials are still ongoing.