The WHO have been hugely misreported by the media. Mike Ryan said that if we develop a safe and effective vaccine for COVID19 we also have to deploy it. We can do this. If we vaccinate enough people to eradicate this virus, it is a "beacon of hope" for the way we care about our world citizens.
Mike Ryan points out that we have a safe and effective vaccine for measles but haven't eliminated it from the world although we know how to do this.
[We have eradicted it from the Americas, last case July 2015 in Brazil. Measles elimination in the America]
Scientists can find a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 - but then we also have to make the vaccine, enough doses for everyone in the world, deliver those doses and ensure that everyone who wants it and needs it gets it.
He says that if we do all this, it will be a beacon of hope for how we care about our world citizens.
This is being reported by the mainstream media as “WHO warns COVID-19 may never go away”. Basically they strip out all mention of hope to create an unrelentingly gloomy supposed “prediction”.
Hugely misreported WHO answer to media questions. Mike Ryan says with a vaccine we can transform the pandemic into a "beacon of hope" to eradicate not only Covid-19 but other diseases like measles. The journalists report it as "Covid-19 may never go away".https://t.co/Mi64Pppe7e pic.twitter.com/sTivMflOxa— Robert Walker BSc, science blogger & fact checker (@DoomsdayDebunks) May 14, 2020
With a vaccine we can transform “ a tragic pandemic into a beacon of hope for the future of our planet and the way we care for our citizens”
Maria van Kerkhove then went on to talk about how we can also suppress this virus even without any medical interventions [with test, trace, isolate].
As usual I’ll add shorter summaries of the main points, in more direct speech. This is especially useful for some autistic readers.
We will go to the last question for today and that's Emma Farge from Reuters. Emma.
EM Hello, good afternoon; another question on the potential longevity of the virus, please. I understand that the Chief Scientist at the WHO spoke today to the FT about it taking four to five years before the virus is under control. That seems to me like a sea change in people's expectations because I think most people think, we'll muddle through until there's a vaccine and that will take 12 months.
Is this view of the Chief Scientist something held widely within the WHO? Thank you
Q. The chief scientist at the WHO said it may take four or five years to get the virus under control. Is this view held widely within the WHO?
MR We'll have to see what Soumya's commentary was but I suspect it was an answer to probably a question of how long this could last as opposed to how long do you predict it will last.
Mike Ryan: I suspect it was a question of how long the virus could last, rather than how long do you predict it will last
We have a new virus entering the human population for the first time and therefore it is very hard to predict when we will prevail over it.
What is clear and I think may be what Soumya may have been alluding to is that the current seroprevalence or the current number of people in our population who have been infected is actually relatively low and if you're a scientist and you project forward in the absence of a vaccine and you try and calculate, how long is it going to take for enough people to become infected so that this disease settles into an endemic phase...
We have a new virus that entered the human population. Chief scientist Soumya may have been alluding to the low number of people who have been infected so far.
If you project forward to how long it is going to take for enough people to be infected to enter an endemic phase then you might get figures like this
[As of writing this, Covid 19 has 4.37 million cases worldwide. It may seem a lot but that is only 0.06% of the world population of 7.8 billion, and that’s with decreasing cases per day too - cases per day worldwide peaked on April 16th]
We may never and I think it's important to put this on the table; this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away. HIV has not gone away but we've come to terms with the virus and we've found the therapies and we have found the prevention methods and people don't feel as scared as they did before and we're offering life -long healthy lives -to people with HIV.
This virus could become another endemic virus in our communities. HIV has not gone away but we have found therapies and prevention methods and people don’t feel as scared and we are offering life-long healthy lives to people with HIV.
I'm not comparing the two diseases but I think it is important that we be realistic and I don't think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear. We do have one great hope; if we do find a highly effective vaccine that we can distribute to everyone who needs it in the world we may have a shot at eliminating this virus but that vaccine will have to highly effective, it will have to be made available to everyone and we will have to use it.
I think it is important to be realistic. I don’t think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear.
We have one great hope. We could use a vaccine to eliminate it.
This vaccine will have to be
1. highly effective
2. available to everyone
3. we have to use it.
Before we began responding to this event on 31st December we were heavily involved and had teams in the Western Pacific working on measles. At that time every single ventilator -and we've learnt about ventilators, all of us around the world, in the last...
A lot of people talk about ventilators. I think there were 14 ventilators in Western Samoa at that time and all 14 were occupied by young children who had a devastating disease. It was called measles and they weren't vaccinated against that disease.
On 31st of December before we responded to this event we had teams in the Western Pacific working on measles.
There were 14 ventilators in Western Samoa at that time and all 14 were occupied by young children with measles. They were not vaccinated against it.
So forgive me if I'm cynical but we have some perfectly effective vaccines on this planet that we have not used effectively for diseases we could eliminate and eradicate and we haven't done it. We've lacked the will, we've lacked the determination to invest in health systems to deliver that. We've lacked the capacity to sustain primary healthcare at the front end.
So - we have some perfectly effective vaccines that we could use to eradicate diseases and we haven’t done it.
We haven’t had the will, the determination, to invest in health systems to deliver this, and to sustain the primary health care.
Therefore science can come up with the vaccine but someone's got to make it and we've got to make enough of it that everyone can get a dose of it and we've go to be able to deliver that and people have got to want to take that vaccine. Every single one of those steps is fraught with challenges.
- Science can come up with the vaccine
- then someone has to make it.
- We have to make enough so everyone can get a dose
- We have to deliver those doses
- People have to want to take the vaccine
Each of those steps is fraught with challenges.
It's a massive opportunity for the world.
The idea that a new disease could emerge, cause a pandemic and we could, with a massive moon-shot, find a vaccine and give it to everyone who needs it and stop this disease in its tracks will turn maybe what has been a tragic pandemic into a beacon of hope for the future of our planet and the way we care for our citizens and the way we work together to solve our problems through solidarity, through trust, through working together and through a multilateral system that can actually benefit mankind.
This is a massive opportunity for the world. The idea that
- a new disease can emerge
- cause a pandemic, then
- with a massive moon-shot, we find a vaccine
- give it to eveyone who needs it,
- stop this disease in its tracks
This could turn a tragic pandemic into a beacon of hope for the future of our planet and the way we care for our citizens.
So I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long-term problem; it may not be. In some senses we have control over that future but it's going to take a massive effort to do it. The DG's been calling for it.
There are no promises and no dates. The disease may settle into a long term problem or it may not be.
We have control over that future but it is going to take a massive effort. The Director General has been calling for this effort.
He's been speaking, bringing leaders together, trying to drive the issue so that we have access to COVID tools. We believe we have a coalition that can deliver on that but it's going to need the political, the financial, the operational, the technical and the community support to be a success.
Dr Tedros has been speaking to leaders, bringing them together to try to drive this forward so we all have access to COVID tools.
We believe we have a coalition that can deliver on all this. But it’s going to need a lot of support to be a success. We need
- community support
MKI just wanted to add that I think many people are in a state of feeling quite some despair. They've been at home for quite some time and they're going through a very difficult situation; they've had loved ones who have been infected or who have died.
But I just want to say that the trajectory of this pandemic, the trajectory of this outbreak is in our hands and we have seen in a number of countries without medical interventions -and as Mike has said, the global community has come together to work in solidarity to accelerate the development of a safe and effective vaccine and to come together to commit to have access to that safe and effective vaccine when it is available.
As Mike has said, the global community has come together in solidarity to accelerate developmetn of a safe and effective vaccine, and to commit to have access to that vaccine when it is available.
But we have seen countries bring this virus under control, we have seen countries use public health measures, the fundamentals of public health and epidemiology and clinical care to bring the virus under control and to suppress transmission to a low enough level where communities can get back to work and communities can open up again.
We have seen countries bring this virus under control, using the fundamentals of public health, epidemiology and clinical care to suppress transmission to a low enough level where communities can get back to work and communities can open up again.
So we can't forget that. It will take some time before we have the information on these medical interventions and it's coming and people are working very hard on that but this is in our hand and we are seeing hope in a number of countries and I really don't want people to forget that.
It will take some time before we have the information on the medical interventions, and people are working very hard on this, but this is in our hand and we are seeing hope in a number of countries, and I don’t want people to forget that.
Press briefing transcript here
- WHO (Wed 29th April) on accelerating vaccine development - may be possible to have it faster than 10 to 16 months from now
- Many vaccines in development for COVID-19 (70+)
- Andrew Marr interview with Sarah Gilbert about UK COVID19 vaccine trials
- New Zealand doing really well with COVID-19 - shows value of attacking the virus hard and fast
- Robert Walker's answer to Which diseases have been completely eradicated?