Couple of Covid-19 vaccines likely by early next year, says WHO chief scientist – india news

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At least a couple of vaccines could be available for use against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) by the early part of 2021, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, World Health Organisation’s (WHO), chief scientist said on Wednesday.

“One of the major lessons learned, and a positive one, during this pandemic has been the role of science and scientists, and also the global collaboration that we have had between scientists to take forward the advances in knowledge in an accelerated way,” Swaminathan said.

She was speaking virtually at the 15th JRD Tata Memorial Oration, titled ‘Reimagining Health: Lessons from the Pandemic.’

“Even product research and development has progressed in an unprecedented rate; we now have a number of new diagnostics including the rapid antigen tests for Covid-19. We are working on vaccines, which hopefully by the early part of 2021 we will have at least a couple of vaccines that have been proven to be safe and effective and that we can then start using in the most vulnerable and high-risk populations,” she added.

Among the most important lessons learned during this pandemic, Swaminathan said was investing in public health and primary healthcare.

“Of the lessons that I have learned over the last nine or ten months, the most important one is the importance of investing in public health and primary healthcare. We see examples of countries where investments in primary healthcare over the past decade or two have paid off. On the contrary, you have high income countries where they’ve been overwhelmed and haven’t been able to put in place some of the mechanisms that have been needed,” she said.

The Population Foundation of India (PFI) streamed the oration as JRD Tata was one of the founders of PFI.

Swaminathan emphasised the differential impact of the pandemic on women and children, and identified certain key factors that would address the gendered impact.

The factors include including violence against women in the package of essential services; social services for women employed in the informal sector; the importance of sex and age disaggregated data and importance of universal health coverage schemes such as Ayushman Bharat.

Underscoring the importance of gender analysis and gender responsive public health policies, Swaminathan said that there was a need to collect gender disaggregated data. Also, there was a strong need for infodemic management, given the excessive influx of misleading and false information on Covid-19.

Apart from that there is also need to identify and address triggers of behaviour change; imaginative use of technology and empowering the frontline workers, who are the foundation of India’s public health system.

Dr K Srinath Reddy, a board-member of PFI, said, “Science must light up the path for human progress in an ecologically sustainable world. Rejecting science will lead to future failures in averting or attenuating diseases, including pandemics. Dr Swaminathan gives a clarion call to hold the standard of science aloft as we march into a healthy future after the victory over Covid-19. To do so, we must vanquish not only the virus but also the virulent anti-science movement that has vitiated thinking and resisted a rational global public health response.”

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