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American Dr Anthony Fauci says vaccine developers should push to make billions of their COVID-19 immunisation doses to ensure access to all parts of the world, instead of focusing on rich countries.
But he warned however soon an effective vaccine may be available it may not be enough to help eradicate the disease.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the US National Institutes of Health.Credit:AP
Speaking at a webinar hosted by London think tank Chatham House, America’s leading expert on infectious disease said the health crisis may not be a pandemic for much longer "because I believe the vaccines are going to turn that around" but he said that there may be a need to re-vaccinate people intermittently, if COVID-19 becomes endemic.
Co-panelist Dr David Heymann, who led the World Health Organisation’s infectious disease unit during the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003 said the future of COVID-19 may be similar to the response to HIV, Ebola, Zika and pandemic flu.
"The public doesn't understand all about vaccines … including that this disease may, even with vaccines, become endemic," Heymann said.
Fauci agreed: "I doubt we are going to eradicate this. I think we need to plan that this is something we may need to maintain control over chronically. It may be something that becomes endemic, that we have to just be careful about," he continued.
Fauci's comments come days after Pfizer said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate was more than 90 per cent effective based on initial results from a large-scale trial, securing a lead in the race to develop a safe and effective vaccine for the respiratory illness.
Pfizer has a $US1.95 billion ($2.27 billion) contract with the US government to deliver 100 million vaccine doses beginning this year, as well as a deal with the European Union to supply up to 300 million doses.
"Now a number of different companies are talking about the ability to make billions of doses. That's what we need. We don't need hundreds of millions for the rich countries," Fauci said.
"We need billions [of doses], so whether you live in the darkest part of the developing world, or if you live in London, you should have the same access."
Experts have also raised doubts about access to the vaccine, especially in the developing countries, as it needs to be stored at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius or below, posing infrastructure challenges.
Fauci said efforts were underway in the United States to push for the development of antivirals and other therapies for early intervention during the course of the COVID-19 respiratory illness.
Reuters, staff writers
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