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WHO welcomes good news on vaccine but says no time for complacency

Its chief says research encouraging but world can't be complacent

WASHINGTON : The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that widespread availability of any vaccine remains a long way off, and Covid-19 cases and deaths are surging in many parts of the world.

"Those countries that are letting the virus run unchecked are playing with fire," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

He voiced particular alarm about the situation in Europe and the Americas, where he said health workers and systems were being pushed to breaking point. "A laissez-faire attitude to the virus... leads to death, suffering and hurts livelihoods and economies," he said. "The quickest way to open up economies is to defeat the virus."

Moderna's experimental vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 based on interim data from a late-stage trial, the company said on Monday, becoming the second US drugmaker to report results that far exceed expectations.

Reported breakthroughs in Covid-19 vaccine research are "encouraging", Dr Tedros said but voiced concern about surging cases and warned against complacency.

"We continue to receive encouraging news about Covid-19 vaccines," said Dr Tedros, who had just spent more than two weeks in quarantine after coming in contact with someone with Covid-19.

The WHO chief said he was "cautiously optimistic" that new tools would start to arrive in the coming months. But he added: "This is no time for complacency."

The US' top infectious disease scientist on Monday hailed early trial results from Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine as "stunningly impressive," and said the findings were an emphatic validation of experimental mRNA technology that some had doubted.

Dr Anthony Fauci told AFP he would have settled for injections that protected 70-75 per cent of people from falling sick.

"The idea that we have a 94.5 percent effective vaccine is stunningly impressive. It is really a spectacular result that I don't think anybody had anticipated would be this good," he said.

Dr Fauci leads the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which began co-developing the vaccine with the US biotech company in January, shortly after China shared the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus. - AFP, REUTERS

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