Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday warned that the global death toll from COVID-19 could be more than double to two million before a successful vaccine is widely used and could be even higher without concerted action to curb the pandemic.
“Unless we do it all, (two million deaths) … is not only imaginable but sadly very likely,” Mike Ryan, head of the UN agency’s emergencies programme, told a briefing on Friday.
The number of deaths is about one million since the novel coronavirus was discovered in China in December last.
“We are not out of the woods anywhere; And, we are not out of the woods in Africa,” said Ryan.
He said that we should not blame young people for the recent increase in infections.
“I really hope we don’t get into finger wagging. It’s all because of the youth,” said Ryan. “The last thing a young person needs is an old person pontificating and wagging the finger.”
Rather, indoor gatherings of people of all ages were driving the epidemic, he said.
COVAX financing scheme
The WHO is continuing talks with China about its possible involvement in the COVAX financing scheme designed to guarantee fast and equitable access globally to COVID-19 vaccines, a week after the deadline for committing passed.
“We’re in discussions with China about the role they may play as we go forward,” said Bruce Aylward, WHO senior adviser and head of the ACT-Accelerator program to back vaccines, treatments and diagnostics against COVID-19.
He confirmed that Taiwan has signed up to the scheme, bringing the total to 159 participants. Some 34 are still deciding.
Talks with China also include discussion of the world’s second-largest economy potentially supplying vaccines to the scheme, he said.
The UN agency published on Friday draft criteria for the assessment of emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines. It will help guide drug-makers as vaccine trials reach advanced stages, said WHO assistant director-general, Mariangela Simao.
The document will be available for public comment until Oct. 8, she said.