Do you have confidence in a vaccine as the magic bullet that will rout out the rampaging COVID-19 from the face of the Earth?
If your answer is yes, you may be mistaken. Head of the World Health Organisation has said that a vaccine will not by itself stop the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic is raging a year after it broke out, with infections soaring past 80 million and claiming more than 1.7 million lives.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says “a vaccine will complement the other tools we have, not replace them. A vaccine on its own will not end the pandemic.”
This is coming as the global health agency says steps to expand genome sequencing of new variants of the coronavirus are needed as the pandemic enters its second year.
New variants found in Britain and South Africa seem to be more contagious and have triggered new travel restrictions.
At an online news conference from Geneva, the WHO chief said, “there will be setbacks and new challenges in the year ahead—for example, new variants of COVID-19 and helping people who are tired of the pandemic continue to combat it.”
He said WHO is working with scientists around the world to “better understand any and all changes to the virus” and their impact.
Adding, he said he wants to “underscore the importance of increasing genomic sequencing capacity worldwide” and of sharing information with the United Nations health agency and other countries. He said that “only if countries are looking and testing effectively will you be able to pick up variants and adjust strategies to cope.”
In the mean time, Tedros says supplies of the vaccine will initially be restricted, with “health workers, older people and other at-risk populations to be prioritised. That will hopefully reduce the number of deaths and enable the health systems to cope.”
Warning, he said, “that will still leave the virus with a lot of room to move. Surveillance will need to continue, people will still need to be tested, isolated and cared for, contacts will still need to be traced… and individuals will still need to be cared for.”