COVID vaccine 90 per cent effective in trials

US says vaccine ‘cavalry’ is coming

US government scientist Anthony Fauci said on Thursday the coronavirus vaccine "cavalry" is coming but urged the public not to let down its guard, and called for a stronger World Health Organisation to ward off future pandemics.

Dr Fauci, a world-leading expert on infectious diseases who has been at serious odds with US President Donald Trump over COVID-19, said that after Pfizer's vaccine, another is "literally on the threshold of being announced".

Moderna, which is co-developing its vaccine candidate with the US National Institutes of Health, says it is close to reaching a threshold in trials to apply for an emergency use authorisation from US regulators.

"The cavalry is coming, but don't put your weapons down," Dr Fauci said by video-link to the Chatham House international affairs think-tank in London.

"Help is on the way, but it isn't here yet," he said, urging the public to respect public health measures such as wearing masks and washing hands.

Dr Fauci added that the coming vaccines should be made available to poorer countries as well: "You should not live or die depending upon where you happen to have been born." While Mr Trump has sought to sideline Dr Fauci in public, the scientist said he anticipated continuing his four decades of government work, as Democrat Joe Biden prepares to take office in January.

As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Fauci said his role in public health was "getting the message across based on science".

"I've done that for decades and I think I'm going to be continuing to do that," he said, although for now he is barred from speaking directly to Mr Biden's team as the Trump administration holds out on recognising this month's election result.

Mr Biden has signalled that his administration will reverse Mr Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the UN's World Health Organisation.

The current pandemic was a sharp reminder of the need for global co-ordination, Dr Fauci said, urging leaders to "make sure the international health structures, the WHO, really get strengthened".

 

Workers at Pfizer's Kalamazoo, Michigan manufacturing facility where Pfizer plans to store its COVID-19 vaccine doses prior to distribution. Picture: AFP
Workers at Pfizer's Kalamazoo, Michigan manufacturing facility where Pfizer plans to store its COVID-19 vaccine doses prior to distribution. Picture: AFP

 

"It is not a perfect organisation. It has faults that have been pointed out by others. But the world does need a global health organisation." Dr Fauci also dwelt on the anti-science agitation that has erupted under Mr Trump and other populist leaders, which has seen him personally targeted with death threats.

Last week, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon faced a clampdown from social media companies after he called for the beheading of federal officials including Dr Fauci.

The political and personalised backlash against science was "unprecedented", Dr Fauci said, but he stressed his "fundamental confidence that the better angels will prevail".

$685 MILLION PLEDGED FOR COVID VACCINE ACCESS

An international conference in Paris aims to raise more than US$500 million ($A686 million) towards ensuring fair access to coronavirus tests, treatment and vaccines for all, including poor countries, the organisers said on Thursday (local time).

The third edition of the Paris Peace Forum, which seeks to come up with concrete solutions to global issues, is dedicated to finding ways to ease the pain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It takes place as the number of cases is rising rapidly across Europe and beyond.

It also comes just days after American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech reported highly promising results for their vaccine candidate.

During the forum, several countries are expected to announce funding for the so-called ACT-Accelerator, a mechanism led by the World Health Organisation that aims to ensure access to tests, treatments and vaccines for all.

According to a statement by the organisers, France will be announcing a commitment of 100 million euros ($A161 million), Spain 50 million ($A80 million) and the European Commission 100 million ($A161 million) specifically for the vaccines part of ACT-A.

The British government is also set to declare a contribution of one additional pound for each $A5 announced.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said they would pledge US$70 million ($A96 million) for vaccines.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, French President Emmanuel Macron, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, will take part in an online discussion set to be streamed online.

In September, the United Nations estimated that the ACT-Accelerator had only received around US$3 billion ($A4 billion) of the US$38 billion ($A52 billion) needed to meet the goal of producing and delivering two billion vaccine doses, 245 million treatments and 500 million diagnostic tests over the next year.

Forum members also promised the creation of a high-level expert panel which would curate all available science concerning the interactions between humans, animals and changes in the environment.

"The pandemic showed us how much correlation there is between the health of humans, that of animals, and that of the planet," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the forum.

At the finance part of the Peace forum, a group of development banks pledged to refocus their investments to take account of climate and development targets set by the UN and the Paris accord of 2015.

Public development banks invest US$2.3 trillion ($A3.1 trillion) every year, 10 per cent of the world's total investments.

The banks also promised to promote projects that reduce inequalities, protect the environment and pursue "sustainable development" goals, without offering examples.

 

Originally published as US says vaccine 'cavalry' is coming


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