New COVID-19 vaccine signals “hope on the horizon”

New COVID-19 vaccine signals “hope on the horizon”
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis

PAHO/WHO: Pfizer vaccine hopeful, but wait on final outcome

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday urged residents to continue to adhere to public health measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid reports of a possible vaccine and “hope on the horizon”.

Yesterday, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) commended the strides made in the early analysis of a coronavirus vaccine by drugmaker Pfizer.

However, officials stressed the world must wait until the full outcome of the study.

“I also want to remind the country, that despite the recent good news of a possible vaccine in the months ahead, we still have quite a way to go before this pandemic is over,” said Minnis during a national address last night.

“A widely distributed vaccine will take some time. In the meantime, we must continue to use public health measures to keep us and our loved ones safe. There is hope on the horizon.”

“But let us continue to hold on and to do the right things in order to save lives and to protect our health and that of our fellow Bahamians.”

Assistant Director of PAHO Dr Jarbas Barbosa

During a briefing on the COVID-19 situation in the Americas yesterday, Assistant Director Dr Jarbas Barbosa said the good news, “brings hope for not only countries in the Americas but in the whole world”.

“These are very good news and I think that it brings hope for not only countries in the Americas but in the whole world,” he said.

On Monday, United States-based Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech announced that initial analysis from its vaccine candidate shows it is more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants who had never been infected with the virus.

It looked at the first 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and found that 10 percent of the infections were in people who had the vaccine, and 90 percent of the infection were people given a placebo.

Barbosa noted however that there is still no vaccine for the virus, so public health measures must continue to be practice at all levels.

Barbosa noted that 10 vaccines are currently in the final stage of clinical trials.

He underscored that at the end of the trials, and before licensing and distribution can begin, the data from the studies will have to be published in scientific journals for the global scientific community to double-check the data very carefully, including the samples, methodology, and findings.

The findings will also have to be presented before regulatory authorities to be licensed to sell this vaccine in a specific country and be prequalified by WHO to be supported by the United Nations, the COVAX Facility, and others.

“It’s good to see that the vaccines are very close to finalizing,” Barbosa added.

“It’s a very critical step. But you need to wait to have a full review of the outcomes of the results that they are getting.  It’s not easy to get a date.

“They need to produce the vaccine, they need to deploy the vaccine, the countries need to be ready to give the vaccination. But hopefully, we will have a vaccine available in the first semester of 2021.”

The COVAX Facility, convened by Gavi, CEPI and WHO, will afford countries in the region the best opportunity to fast-track access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The COVAX Facility offers access to a basket of 15 possible vaccines.

As of October, more than 150 countries have sent their letter of intent to join the COVAX initiative and more are expected to follow.

United States President Donald Trump has said the US will not join the COVAX global effort to develop, manufacture and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, in part due to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) involvement – which the country has withdrawn from.