The race to be the first to produce a vaccine is led by three teams, one Chinese and two American. All three have already started testing their vaccines on humans. 67 other vaccines, including one under development by a team at the University of Oxford, are also working in human trials.
The news comes as the worldwide death toll from the new coronavirus exceeded 125,000 on Tuesday.
In a statement released on Monday, the WHO said, “Under the coordination of WHO, a group of experts from diverse backgrounds is working on developing vaccines against COVID-19.
“The group calls on everyone to follow the recommendations aimed at preventing the transmission of the COVID-19 virus and protecting the health of individuals.”
The most advanced team in its research is that of the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, which is collaborating with CanSino Bio of Hong Kong to produce a genetically modified vaccine.
CanSino Bio has informed the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that it plans to move to phase two of clinical trials of its Ad5-nCOV vaccine in China “soon”.
This step will involve administering the investigational drug to a group of patients, while a second group will receive standard treatment.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals in the United States gave the first dose of its experimental vaccine to 40 healthy volunteers last Monday, after obtaining the green light from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Inovio is working on a DNA vaccine, which is made by placing a section of the virus’s genetic code inside a piece of synthetic DNA.
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The researchers said they could have a ready-to-use vaccine as early as September, while acknowledging that many things could still derail their ambitious schedule.
Scientists told The Daily Telegraph: “The best of times is that by the fall of 2020, we have the results on the effectiveness of the vaccine from a phase III trial and the ability to manufacture large quantities vaccine. “
Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the university, said she was “80 percent” confident that the vaccine would work.
President Trump announced at a White House press conference on Tuesday that the United States would stop funding WHO.
Donald Trump has been involved in a long argument with the World Health Organization, accusing him of being “China-centric.”
The president told reporters that the United States has “not been treated properly” by WHO and that it will now send funds to strengthen global health directly to countries.
Trump has accused the UN agency of failing to properly investigate information regarding COVID-19 when the deadly virus first emerged in China.
He said the failure had allowed the virus to spread around the world and that many deaths could have been prevented if action had been taken sooner.
The United States is the largest sponsor of WHO and provides between £ 158 and £ 416 million in funds.