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WHO Says Vaccine Announcement Encouraging, More Data Needed

WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan attends a press conference organized by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents in Geneva, July 3, 2020.

Experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) say the news Monday of another COVID-19 vaccine candidate is encouraging but more information is needed and, as new virus cases surge around the world, it is no time to be complacent.

At their regular COVID-19 news briefing in Geneva, WHO officials reacted to the news from U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna that its vaccine candidate tested at better than 90% efficacy.

WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that level of efficacy in this vaccine, as well as the Phizer/BinNTech vaccine candidate announced last week, is very encouraging.

But, she said, there are many questions remaining about the duration of protection they provide, the impact on severe cases of the virus, the impact on different subpopulations, especially the elderly, as well as the adverse events beyond a certain period. Swaminathan said she hoped the clinical trials would continue to collect data to answer these questions.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while the vaccine news is cause for “cautious optimism,” this is no time for complacency. He said the agency is currently “extremely concerned” by the surge in cases they are seeing in some countries, “particularly in Europe and the Americas."

Echoing comments he made earlier in the day to the WHO executive board, Tedros said a vaccine alone will not end the pandemic. Rather, it will be a valuable tool along with active testing and contact tracing and continued vigilance in communities and among individuals.