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Trust in vaccines vital to halting pandemic: WHO

26 Comments
By Nina LARSON
U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said their prospective vaccine had proven 90 percent effective Photo: AFP

As the world celebrates advances in vaccines against the novel coronavirus, a top WHO expert warned in an interview with AFP that public distrust risked rendering even the most effective treatments useless against the pandemic.

"A vaccine that sits in a freezer or in a refrigerator or on a shelf and doesn't get used is doing nothing to help shorten this pandemic," said Kate O'Brien, director of the World Health Organization's immunization department.

U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced on Nov 9 that their prospective vaccine had proven 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in ongoing final phase trials involving more than 40,000 people.

O'Brien hailed the interim results as "extremely important", and voiced hope that preliminary data from a handful of other candidate vaccines in similarly advanced trials would come through soon.

If the complete data show that "one or more of these vaccines has very, very substantial efficacy, that is really good news for putting another tool in the toolbox" for fighting the pandemic, she said.

But with the pandemic continuing to surge after already claiming some 1.3 million lives, she voiced deep concern at growing signs of vaccine hesitancy, with misinformation and mistrust coloring people's acceptance of scientific advances.

"We are not going to be successful as a world in controlling the pandemic with the use of vaccines as one of the tools unless people are willing to get vaccinated," O'Brien said.

More needed to be done to boost public "confidence in the fact that the vaccines that WHO is involved in evaluating, we will not be compromising on safety or efficacy," she said.

O'Brien acknowledged that there were a number of outstanding questions about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate and its peers, including how long protection against the virus would last.

And while the vaccine candidates are being tested for how effectively and safely they protect people from developing the disease, it remains unclear whether they actually avert asymptomatic infection and transmission of the virus.

A big question, she said, is: "does it change your likelihood of transmitting to anybody else?"

Despite the remaining questions, the WHO is betting on one or more vaccines winning approval soon, followed by a rapid scale-up of production and distribution.

Anticipating the huge demand for any approved vaccine, the UN health agency has helped create the so-called Covax facility to ensure equitable distribution.

But even with gargantuan efforts, it will take a while before there are enough doses for everyone, and the WHO has set out guidelines for how to prioritise the distribution.

"The goal here is that every country should be able to immunize 20 percent of their population by the end of 2021," O'Brien said.

That, she said, would go a long way to providing protection to healthcare workers and the most vulnerable populations, as well as those essential to keeping societies running, like teachers.

After that, how quickly everyone else could access a vaccine would largely depend on which country they live in, and whether their government had made deals to access vaccines that obtain approval.

"We would expect many more doses in 2022," O'Brien said.

Meanwhile, the logistical challenges of getting approved vaccines out to billions who need it are daunting, from manufacturing to ensuring the transportation and storage at the extremely low temperatures some of the candidates require.

"A vaccine that is highly efficacious and is safe... still is only valuable for a public health impact if it actually gets to the people that it needs to protect and is used widely in populations," O'Brien said.

Developing a safe and effective vaccine "is like establishing base camp at Everest," she said. "But actually getting to the impact of vaccines is (like) having to climb Everest."

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

26 Comments
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If the WHO had actually advised people on maintaining a healthy immune system then they might have a slither of credibility.

Common sense is telling me NO to any rushed to market vaccine

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

It's one thing to have a negative view about the politics of the WHO based on Tedros Adhanom's relationship with China.

It's another thing entirely to dismiss the wealth of medical and epidemiological expertise of scientists within the WHO, and the professional advice and reassurances given by those experts, based purely on your views of Tedros and China.

That's self-defeating.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

The WHO has no control over the vaccines being developed in the US and other nations. These are mostly stand alone national efforts. WHO cheerleads and will eventually help distribute it globally but WHO staff are not doing the development or testing of these vaccines.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

"O'Brien acknowledged that there were a number of outstanding questions about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate and its peers, including how long protection against the virus would last."

Pfizer's mRNA vaccine requires deep cold storage at -70 C and has a short shelf life. Those are the main hurdles in making it available for all, especially in third world countries like mine where the infrastructure is not present. There have been no mRNA vaccines before this, and there are other vaccine candidates in phase 2/3 trials based on adenovirus.

The big role that WHO can play here is specifying which vaccine works best for which country keeping in mind the genetical makeup, logistical challenges and other factors.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I think I understand how someone could be worried about the efficacy and safety of a vaccine that is pushed by a politician. Vaccines that are pushed by scientists worry me much less. In the end, those who choose not to get a proven vaccine may be choosing not to be around for their family, and not to pass on their genetic material to future generations.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

If the WHO had actually advised people on maintaining a healthy immune system then they might have a slither of credibility.

Common sense is telling me NO to any rushed to market vaccine

Yes, very true. Healthy people with a healthy immune system have very little to worry about from SARSCoV2. But they never talk about it; the silence is deafening. All we hear are masks, social distancing, lockdowns, vaccines, and new medicines (but not hydroxychloroquine!).

"A vaccine that sits in a freezer or in a refrigerator or on a shelf and doesn't get used is doing nothing to help shorten this pandemic,"

... as well as the vaccine that is injected into someone. This pandemic is ending, if it hasn't already.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

This pandemic is ending, if it hasn't already.

Tell that to the people in hospital and on ventilators in many parts of the world.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

@rawbeer How does one obtain “a healthy immune system”.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@rawbeer How does one obtain “a healthy immune system”.

By maintaining overall health (natural foods, exercise, sleep, low stress) and high vitamin D levels. Living normally and naturally exposing our body to the bacteria and viruses around us (not the totally unnatural vaccines!). I also believe eating low carb and intermittent fasting might be helpful.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

If the WHO had actually advised people on maintaining a healthy immune system then they might have a slither of credibility.

They do, not only with regards with the pandemic. Another thing is that a healthy immune system is no guarantee of defeating COVID-19, plenty of lethal victims had a perfectly working immune system.

Yes, very true. Healthy people with a healthy immune system have very little to worry about from SARSCoV2.

And you know what can make them worry even less? a safe and effective vaccine that reduces the risk from the infection very importantly. And also for those with preexisting conditions, advanced age, etc.

But they never talk about it; the silence is deafening. All we hear are masks, social distancing, lockdowns, vaccines, and new medicines (but not hydroxychloroquine!).

If you want to ignore medical advice it is not them who are silent but you that keep ignoring scientific facts, keeping a good health state is obviously good after being infected, but no guarantee of recovering the health, so the most effective measures are those that prevent the infection in the first place, if you are not infected then it can be guaranteed that the infection will not affect you importantly, or at all.

.. as well as the vaccine that is injected into someone

Personal beliefs not based in science are irrelevant. Vaccines are effective and safe measures that reduces the risk from infection, every single vaccine in use today is like that, there is no reason to believe it will be different for COVID.

Living normally and naturally exposing our body to the bacteria and viruses around us (not the totally unnatural vaccines!).

That is false, a mistake coming from a religious belief. Science can easily prove that for any pathogen for which a vaccine is available, exposure to the natural infection is many times more risky than being vaccinated. That is why every single professional association of health workers in the world (in every country) coincides in recommending it.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

If you are , as a vaccination side effect, fluently in writing and speaking Chinese right after the injection, you have chosen the right and only fitting vaccine candidate. ROFL

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

plenty of lethal victims had a perfectly working immune system.

If they had a perfectly working immune system, they would have survived the infection with no or minor symptoms.

Science can easily prove that for any pathogen for which a vaccine is available, exposure to the natural infection is many times more risky than being vaccinated.

Yeah, you continue to repeat that. But that is only true if you continue to ignore the serious side effects of vaccines that many suffer from.

Continue repeating it, but this SARSCoV2 does not warrant risking one's health taking any of these unnatural vaccines.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Yeah, you continue to repeat that. But that is only true if you continue to ignore the serious side effects of vaccines that many suffer from.

No, it's objectively true. You just choose to ignore science, medicine, and history, and to parade your lack of understanding like a badge of honour.

You continue to ignore the effects of disease, and to return, time and again to the "natural fallacy". Nature is full of things that are exceedingly harmful to human life, immune system or not. In addition to all the toxic substances in nature, there is a vast range of parasitic, bacterial, and viral diseases. To assume that the immune system, even in a healthy person, can just fight them off, every time, is to show that you have no understanding at all of the immune system.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@ Raw Beer: Overdosing on vitamin D may lead to kidney failure and other illnesses, even psychosis.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

that is only true if you continue to ignore the serious side effects of vaccines that many suffer from.

Third-stage trials of vaccines are specifically engineered to ensure that the effects of the vaccine are not worse that just not treating the vaccine at all.

Your premise only exists if you ignore that vaccines go through this third-stage trial, or are ignorant of what that trial is.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The biggest problem, at least in America is that some shysters and fakers have been slinging this anti-flu vaccine misinformation horsecrap for years and it's been no different for thic CoVid-19 thing. On top of that, that phony POTUS has blubbered off his juvenile mouth about it not being real or blaming China and saying these uncouth 'kung flu' jokes like a 7th grader gossipy lippy punk.

People in my home state have been ignoring ALL safety measures and now there's 8000 new cases sick a day. And people all across America were partying like it's 1999, let alone all the civil unrest crap Trump stirred up.

It's a sad scenario, and the fallout ain't going away instantly just because we just elected a real President recently.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I think that in most countries, the population will take the vaccine, some people will be anti-vaxxers and be shunned, but even without them herd immunity will be achieved. Borders will open back up and trade will get back to it's new, adjusted normal.

In the US however, the virus has now been turned into a right vs. left situation, and there we'll hear about how the deep state is the one propagating the virus and the vaccine to control people to take away their guns and goddamnit as Americans there's no way the pinky leftos are going to take the guns or vaccinate for control so SAY NO TO LEFTY VACCINES it's HILLARY and OBAMA raising TAXES!!! ... and the virus will continue to run rampant without herd immunity, and other countries will keep their borders closed to America. This will place America in a position where they are handicapped against the rest of the world which has moved on, damaging their economy irreparably.

Trump + Coronavirus + right wing hyper-partisan extremism = the end of the American empire.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Trump + Coronavirus + right wing hyper-partisan extremism = the end of the American empire.

'Making America Great Again'. Yeah, uh-huh.

At least 77 million+ Americans told the Fuehrer NO. We have elected a real genuine President again, one with experience, know how and cred. Not to mention an actual human being. And that's a start.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

It’s a start. There is no denying that. But so was electing Obama after the Bush 2 Iraq 2 debacle, and we all saw how that went. America has never taken responsibility for any of its acts around the world, and even as the country is a complete mess normally rational Americans try to claim it’s the greatest country that has ever been, even though the only two metrics by which that’s true are military power and size of economy.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

If they had a perfectly working immune system, they would have survived the infection with no or minor symptoms.

That is false, a mistaken assumption born from a personal bias. A healthy immune system is no guarantee of not having heavy symptoms or dying from COVID, as true as you will not find a single professional association of health workers that has the same opinion as you.

Yeah, you continue to repeat that. But that is only true if you continue to ignore the serious side effects of vaccines that many suffer from.

Also completely false, all currently approved vaccines have been tested and proved to importantly reduce the risk of any possible complication compared with the natural infection.

I would ask you to provide proof of a vaccine that is more risky than the infection, but I already know you have no such thing, only a deep desire for this to be true, but that is not comparable with objective scientific data that prove vaccines are safe.

If the data at the end of the phase III trial is on line with the preliminary data already obtained it can be objectively be proved that vaccinating against COVID-19 do reduce the risks compared with the infection. If you are not able to accept this is your right, but you cannot validly say differently.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

If they had a perfectly working immune system, they would have survived the infection with no or minor symptoms.

That is false, a mistaken assumption born from a personal bias. A healthy immune system is no guarantee of not having heavy symptoms or dying from COVID, as true as you will not find a single professional association of health workers that has the same opinion as you.

You put way too much faith into "professional association of health workers" and you completely ignore/deny the conflicts of interest of their leadership.

People have complications from Covid19 because their immune system is doing something it is not supposed to do. Anyone with a healthy immune system will get through it with no or little symptoms.

Overdosing on vitamin D may lead to kidney failure and other illnesses, even psychosis.

Overdosing on vitamin D is a very difficult thing to do. Why are you trying to scare people from this simple, cheap, safe, and effective way of fighting infections? Are you too supported by big pharma?

Third-stage trials of vaccines are specifically engineered to ensure that the effects of the vaccine are not worse that just not treating the vaccine at all.

Your premise only exists if you ignore that vaccines go through this third-stage trial, or are ignorant of what that trial is.

They do not look at long term effects, all the chronic illnesses and allergies that will come from this vaccine.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

You put way too much faith into "professional association of health workers" and you completely ignore/deny the conflicts of interest of their leadership.

False, there is no way every single one of them, around the world can have conflicts of interest biased towards the same conclusion. That is an antivaxxer fantasy, the same as one single person paying annually the trillions of dollars required for research all over the world. Doctors on the field say the opposite you want to defend, and so are scientists, nurses, social workers, epidemiologist, in short anybody that actually know something against the disease, and they have scientific data to say it.

Against their professional opinion you just have your own beliefs, without any objective knowledge to support it. It is then easy to conclude they are not the ones mistaken.

People have complications from Covid19 because their immune system is doing something it is not supposed to do. Anyone with a healthy immune system will get through it with no or little symptoms.

False, a healthy immune system still does things it is not supposed to do all the time, infections are like that because part of the adaptations that virus have to survive include mechanism to disrupt and make pathogenic even the healthiest immunity. You have zero proof that a healthy immune system is a guarantee against the disease 100% of the time. It is something you want to believe because you don't understand infection like the professionals that contradict you do.

And no, phase III trials do look at long term effects, and in much more detail than what the usual patient is examined for COVID-19, this is to assure that the possibility of those effects appearing is much more lower than even asymptomatic infection Which is logical since a vaccine is the inoculation of one or two proteins in a million times less quantity than the infection, that includes two dozen proteins, some of which are made specifically to alter the normal functioning of the immune system.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

You have zero proof that a healthy immune system is a guarantee against the disease 100% of the time. It is something you want to believe because you don't understand infection like the professionals that contradict you do.

For Covid19, it certainly is.

phase III trials do look at long term effects,

How long a term are you talking about? Perhaps we have a different impression of what long is. I'm thinking more in terms of 1-2 years.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

For Covid19, it certainly is.

Again, you believing it very much do not make it true. You have no proof of it, only what you misunderstand about it. There is a reason why the professionals say the opposite from you, and that you have nothing to sustain this but your own personal non-informed opinion.

Saying that every health professional of the world is wrong but you are right just because is not a valid position.

How long a term are you talking about? Perhaps we have a different impression of what long is. I'm thinking more in terms of 1-2 years.

Decades, there are pathologic changes that will indicate problems far in the future, for example immune auto reactivity, or constant inflammation, or loss of neurons, etc. The kind of things that have been observed for COVID-19 patients but not in vaccine volunteers, once again quite predictably by the amount and type of antigens they are exposed for. Even betting on completely unknow new problems that could not be predicted and that would completely change our understanding of long term problems, the natural infection is still a much more likely candidate to produce it than the vaccine. As happened for example with measles and the permanent immune reset it causes, something identified recently, but only on naturally infected patients, not on vaccinated people.

You may not like it, but to say this is not true you need to data that prove that the vaccine has higher chances of producing it than the natural infection, even when empirical evidence points to the opposite and basic pathology concurs with the known mechanisms for this to be produced.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

You may not like it, but to say this is not true you need to data that prove that the vaccine has higher chances of producing it than the natural infection, even when empirical evidence points to the opposite and basic pathology concurs with the known mechanisms for this to be produced.

Have you considered that facts don't care about my feelings, and as a right winger this makes me very upset and therefore facts are wrong?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

StrangerlandNov. 17  04:37 am JST

It’s a start. There is no denying that. But so was electing Obama after the Bush 2 Iraq 2 debacle, and we all saw how that went. America has never taken responsibility for any of its acts around the world, and even as the country is a complete mess normally rational Americans try to claim it’s the greatest country that has ever been, even though the only two metrics by which that’s true are military power and size of economy.

Wars do not make a nation great. Joe himself has said that we need alliances, we need diplomacy with other nations. Trumpsytraitor boorishly claimed that NATO was 'outdated' (he's a quisling, ya know) and he has acted in an extremely haughty and immature manner with Europe. He's told them to 'keep Europe pure' (white, no Arabs), and he has totally embarassed us all with his hateful racist crap. He tried to bully Denmark in giving him Greenland. He's made a total ass of himself, said some disgusting remarks to the UK royals and more. Joe knows enough that America is great by its diversity, diplomacy and willing to negotiate with others. Those 8 years as Obama's VP gives him cred. And yes, this is a start. Back to the normal direction.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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