The World Health Organization (WHO) has not been the most reliable entity when it comes to tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Between praising China’s contagion-spreading choices, failing to adequately investigate the laboratories in Wuhan that were the likeliest source of the pathogen, and initially denying human transmission was occurring, there were plenty of reasons for President Donald Trump to stop sending American tax dollars to the agency.

Not only funding is being cut, but so are ties. The US will not participate in a WHO-led effort to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine.

President Trump has expressed confidence in US efforts to develop a vaccine and has been harshly critical of the WHO, chastising the international health organization for its “China-centric” approach to the pandemic.

“Under President Trump’s leadership vaccine and therapeutic research, development, and trials have advanced at unprecedented speed to deliver groundbreaking, effective medicines driven by data and safety and not held back by government red tape,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said, The Hill reported.

“The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations by the corrupt World Health Organization and China,” Deere added.

Considering there are serious suspicions that China spied on research related to the coronavirus vaccine, the President’s decision seems wise.

Additionally, scientists now indicate that COVID-19 vaccines developed by both China and Russia share a potential shortcoming: They are based on a common cold virus that many people have been exposed to, potentially limiting their effectiveness.

CanSino Biologics’ (6185.HK) vaccine, approved for military use in China, is a modified form of adenovirus type 5, or Ad5. The company is in talks to get emergency approval in several countries before completing large-scale trials, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

A vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, approved in Russia earlier this month despite limited testing, is based on Ad5 and a second less common adenovirus.

“The Ad5 concerns me just because a lot of people have immunity,” said Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University. “I’m not sure what their strategy is … maybe it won’t have 70% efficacy. It might have 40% efficacy, and that’s better than nothing, until something else comes along.”

…Researchers have experimented with Ad5-based vaccines against a variety of infections for decades, but none are widely used. They employ harmless viruses as “vectors” to ferry genes from the target virus – in this case the novel coronavirus – into human cells, prompting an immune response to fight the actual virus.

But many people already have antibodies against Ad5, which could cause the immune system to attack the vector instead of responding to the coronavirus, making these vaccines less effective.

In terms of a US vaccine, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn indicates that he’s willing to consider granting emergency authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine before current round of phase III clinical trials have been completed.

… “It is up to the [vaccine developer] to apply for authorization or approval, and we make an adjudication of their application,” Hahn said. “If they do that before the end of phase three, we may find that appropriate. We may find that inappropriate, we will make a determination.”

Phase three trials test a large number of participants to compare an experimental drug to standard therapies and evaluate the overall risks and benefits of the medication.

As part of Operation Warp Speed, several pharma giants (Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and BioNTech, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Novavax and AstraZeneca) have all received funding to develop and prepare at least 300 million doses by January 2021. Department of Health and Human Services says the vaccines will be given to the American people for free if part of a vaccine campaign.

One prediction I will make, based on this data: The New Year’s Eve parties this year will be spectacular. Everyone wants this year to end quickly…and begin the new one with the worst of the pandemic behind us.

 

 
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