Photo courtesy of World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partners have been racing to develop and deploy safe and effective vaccines. There are increased conversations about countries receiving deliveries of vaccines in the coming months and roll-out of vaccination programs to combat the pandemic. Here are some quick facts from WHO to help you get up to speed with COVID-19 Vaccines.
1. Vaccines are developed to save lives
Scientists around the world are developing many potential vaccines for COVID-19. There are currently more than 60 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in clinical development and over 170 in pre-clinical development. These vaccines are all designed to teach the body’s immune system to safely recognize and block the virus that causes COVID-19.
2. Types of potential vaccines for COVID-19
There are 4 types of vaccines. Inactivated or weakened virus vaccines use a form of the virus that has been inactivated or weakened so it doesn’t cause disease, but still generates an immune response. Protein-based vaccines use harmless fragments of proteins or protein shells that mimic the COVID-19 virus to safely generate an immune response. Viral vector vaccines use a virus that has been genetically engineered so that it can’t cause disease but produces coronavirus proteins to safely generate an immune response. RNA and DNA vaccines are a cutting-edge approach that uses genetically engineered RNA or DNA to generate a protein that safely prompts an immune response.
3. Interim recommendations
WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) issues vaccine-specific policy recommendations. These recommendations may be updated as additional evidence of vaccine effectiveness and safety, and additional vaccines and other interventions become available. As of now, SAGE has issued interim recommendations for the use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine against COVID-19, and the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine (AZD1222). Nevertheless, there are specific populations for whom vaccination is not recommended, either due to contraindications, lack of supply, or limited data. These populations currently include people with a history of severe allergies, most pregnant women, international travellers who are not part of a prioritized group, and children under 16.
4. Increasing pandemic response WHO is working in collaboration with scientists, business, and global health organizations to speed up the pandemic response. When a safe and effective vaccine is found, COVAX (led by WHO, GAVI and CEPI) will facilitate the equitable access and distribution of these vaccines to protect people in all countries. People most at risk will be prioritized.