Hand washing and physical distancing may play an equal role in defeating Covid-19 as finding a vaccine, a global health chief said this week. Picture: Reuters
Hand washing and physical distancing may play an equal role in defeating Covid-19 as finding a vaccine, a global health chief said this week. Picture: Reuters

Covid-19 vaccine won't be a silver bullet, warns WHO chief

By DAVID CHURCHILL Time of article published Jun 30, 2020

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London - Hand washing and physical distancing may play an equal role in defeating Covid-19 as finding a vaccine, a global health chief said this week.

Dr Hans Kluge said it is "possible" a vaccine will be available within a year but warned that this would not be a "silver bullet".

The Europe chief of the World Health Organization made his comments in an interview with the Daily Mail.

He does not believe a vaccine will automatically end the pandemic as there are no guarantees it will work for everybody.

Dr Kluge also raised fears not all countries will get "equal access" to one. This means measures like hand washing and distancing may be the most effective weapon until the virus becomes endemic or people develop immunity, he said.

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When asked if a vaccine "changes everything", he replied: "No. Everyone thinks that a vaccine is a panacea. First of all we don’t know if a vaccine will work in all age groups.

"Nobody knows [when there will be a vaccine]. My dream would be within a year. It’s possible but it’s also very possible it will not be in one year.

"But everyone talks about it as if it’s a silver bullet. But it’s absolutely not. I mean, 100 years ago we had Spanish flu and what was the best strategy? The same as now, hand washing and distancing." He added his "wildest dream" would be a mutation in the virus so it becomes less lethal.

"It would become endemic, like the normal flu," said Dr Kluge. "It peaks and becomes less lethal and then we have to learn to live with it."

However, the director-general of the WHO warned the fight against the virus was not even close to being over. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out that the pandemic was speeding up in many populous countries, saying "with this kind of environment and conditions, we fear the worst".

The Europe region within Dr Kluge’s remit is 53 countries: the UK, EU and the nations of central and eastern Europe, including Turkey and Russia.

He said a "very significant resurgence" of cases across this area was proof countries must have "robust" track and trace methods.

Daily Mail

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