America’s top infectious diseases official has raised concerns over COVID-19 vaccines being developed by China and Russia as the world scrambles for answers to a pandemic the WHO warned will be felt for decades.
Six months after the World Health Organization declared a global emergency, COVID-19 has killed more than 6,80,000 people and infected more than 17.5 million, according to an AFP tally.
As countries across Western Europe announced new lockdowns and reported historic economic slumps, the UN health body said the pandemic was a “once-in-a-century” crisis.
September target date
Several Chinese companies are at the forefront of the race to develop a vaccine to the disease and Russia has set a target date of September to roll out its own medicine. But U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said it was unlikely his country would use any vaccine developed in either country, where regulatory systems are far more opaque than they are in the West. “I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone,” he told a U.S. Congressional hearing on Friday. “Claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing, I think, is problematic, at best.” As part of its own “Operation Warp Speed,” the U.S. government will pay pharma giants Sanofi and GSK up to $2.1 billion for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, the companies said.
In East Asia, territories which saw success in tackling the early wave of COVID-19 are now confronting worrying new spikes.
Japan’s Okinawa declared a state of emergency Saturday after a record jump in cases on the island — many linked to U.S. military forces stationed there. Hong Kong opened a new makeshift hospital to house COVID-19 patients after cases rose to record highs.
In a sign of the trade-offs being forced on European governments, Britain imposed new lockdowns Friday on millions of households in northern England.