The World Health Organisation said that it did not expect widespread immunisation against COVID-19 until mid-2021, despite growing expectations in the United States, the worst-hit nation, that a vaccine could be released within weeks.
The Geneva-based WHO also insisted it would never endorse a vaccine that had not proven safe and effective, amid concerns over the rush to develop a jab for COVID-19.
The disease killed nearly 870,000 people and infected more than 26 million others worldwide as well as upended hundreds of millions of lives and wreaked havoc on the global economy.
The United Nations health agency welcomed the fact that a ‘considerable number’ of vaccine candidates had entered final stage trials, which typically involve tens of thousands of people.
But ‘in terms of realistic timelines, we are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,’ WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said.
Russia had already approved a vaccine, and research published in The Lancet medical journal on Friday said that patients involved in early tests developed antibodies with ‘no serious adverse events’.
But scientists cautioned the trials were too small — just 76 participants — to prove safety and effectiveness.
Washington had also urged United States to get ready for a potential vaccine rollout by November 1, sparking concerns president Donald Trump’s administration was rushing to begin distributing a vaccine ahead of the November 3 election.
Celebrities and public figures had not been spared, with Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi taken to hospital with the disease.
The list also includes three Paris Saint-Germain footballers including Brazilian star Neymar.
Also on the list are movie stars Tom Hanks and more recently Robert Pattinson, whom Hollywood trade publications said contracted the disease while filming the latest Batman movie in Britain.
All over the world, businesses and individuals were counting the cost of the pandemic, as flare-ups continued to force governments into imposing restrictions.
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