Speed of COVID-19 vaccine development doesn't nullify safety and efficacy processes PAHO says


Speed of COVID-19 vaccine development doesn't nullify safety and efficacy processes PAHO says

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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WASHINGTON, United States — Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F Etienne says PAHO will only support the distribution of a vaccine that has proven to be safe and effective in clinical trials, reviewed by national regulatory authorities and recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“It is important to emphasise that while we're working to develop a vaccine faster than ever before, the process to guarantee its safety and efficacy is unchanged,” Etienne told a press briefing in Washington, DC.

She noted that there is a pipeline of more than 180 vaccine candidates under study, with 11 in phase III clinical trials.

Etienne noted that what has changed is the “unprecedented attention on the vaccine development process”, further highlighting the “over-abundance of information from a number of sources, some less reliable than others and not based on science, which has led to confusion and misinformation around vaccine safety”.

The PAHO director emphasised that vaccines are designed and manufactured with safety in mind. She explained that once a COVID-19 vaccine proves safe and effective in a clinical trial, regulatory agencies thoroughly evaluate the data prior to granting approvals and WHO will also oversee an independent review process before granting its own recommendation.

“How we communicate about COVID-19 will make our ability to control the pandemic,” she said, calling for countries, the media, regulatory authorities, the private sector and the scientific community to come together to provide the public with “clear, concise and science-based information about a future COVID-19 vaccine”.

Etienne noted that an important factor in establishing trust in the new vaccines is to ensure their accessibility to all countries. To that end, she said PAHO is supporting countries to gain access to these vaccines through the COVAX facility.

“Virtually every country in Latin America and the Caribbean has joined or is in the process of joining the facility,” she said, adding that countries are taking legal and budgetary steps needed to participate in this innovative global partnership.

“We are actively collaborating with financial institutions, like the Inter-American Development Bank, to support countries in our region accessing the funding needed to purchase vaccines through the COVAX facility when they are available,” Etienne added.

“PAHO's Revolving Fund, with more than 40 years of experience providing affordable and quality vaccines to countries in Latin American and the Caribbean, will be, along with UNICEF, the purchase mechanism for the COVAX facility,” she said.

She noted that in the Caribbean, 11 countries will receive financial support for initial payments to join the COVAX facility in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the European Union.

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