Millennium Post

AstraZeneca vaccine trial pause a 'wake-up call': WHO

ZURICH: AstraZeneca's pause of an experimental vaccine for the Coronavirus after the illness of a participant is a "wake-up call" but should not discourage researchers, the World Health Organization's (WHO) chief scientist said on Thursday.

"This is a wake-up call to recognise that there are ups and downs in clinical development and that we have to be prepared," Soumya Swaminathan told a virtual briefing from Geneva.

"We do not have to be discouraged. These things happen."

Governments are desperate for a vaccine to help end the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused more than 900,000 deaths and global economic turmoil, and the WHO had flagged AstraZeneca's, being developed with Oxford University, as the most promising.

However, the drugmaker suspended late-stage trials this week after a participant in Britain suffered from neurological symptoms.

"It's a race against this virus, and it's a race to save lives. It's not a race between companies, and it's not a race between countries," added WHO's head of emergencies Mike Ryan.

More than 27.95 million people have been reported infected globally, according to a Reuters tally.

WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said a combination of factors is helping reduce death rates in Europe, including finding cases earlier and better clinical care. "We are in a better position to prevent the virus from infecting vulnerable populations," she said, cautioning, however, that the disease's long-term effects were still not known.

WHO General Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who on Thursday upped his fundraising plea to $38 billion for the agency's ACT Accelerator programme to fight COVID-19, declined to comment directly on reports that U.S. President Donald Trump had downplayed the virus's dangers while criticizing the WHO's response.

"What worries me the most is what I have been saying all along: a lack of solidarity," Tedros said. "When we are divided, it is a good opportunity for the virus."

Meanwhile, the overall number of global Coronavirus cases has topped the 28 million mark, while the deaths have increased to over 908,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

As of Friday morning, the total number of cases stood at 28,054,396 and the fatalities rose to 908,017, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US accounted for the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 6,395,904 and 191,753 respectively, according to the CSSE.

India is currently in the second place in terms of cases at 4,465,863, while the country's death toll stood at 75,062.

In terms of cases, Brazil ranks third (4,238,446), and is followed by Russia (1,042,836), Peru (702,776), Colombia (686,851), Mexico (652,364), South Africa (644,438), Spain (554,143), Argentina (524,198), Chile (428,669), Iran (395,488), France (392,243), the UK (360,534), Bangladesh (332,970), Saudi Arabia (323,720), Pakistan (299,949), Turkey (286,455), Italy (283,180), Iraq (278,418), Germany (258,149), Philippines (248,947), Indonesia (207,203), Ukraine (149,146), Israel (145,526), Canada (136,956), Bolivia (124,205), Qatar (121,052), Ecuador (113,206), Kazakhstan (106,661), Dominican Republic (101,716) and Egypt (100,557), the CSSE figures showed.

The other countries with over 10,000 deaths are the Brazil (129,522), Mexico (69,649), the UK (41,697), Italy (35,587), France (30,819), Peru (30,236), Spain (29,699), Iran (22,798), Colombia (22,053), Russia (18,207), South Africa (15,265), Chile (11,781), Argentina (10,907) and Ecuador (10,749).

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