Coronavirus: WHO raises fears there may never be a 'silver bullet' to beat COVID-19

August 03, 2020

There may never be a "silver bullet" to beat coronavirus, the head of the World Health Organisation has warned.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said while work on an "effective" vaccine is under way in several countries, a perfect one to end the pandemic may never be found.

Across the globe, 690,624 people have died with COVID-19 and more than 18.1 million have been infected with the disease, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Of those, 46,295 deaths and 307,251 infections have been recorded in the UK.

Despite some nations having cleared their first waves, there are fears of a resurgence.

The UK government is warning a second peak could come from Europe, as case numbers - while at their lowest point since mid-March - have stopped dropping off significantly.

Prof Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, also warned last week the country may have hit the limit of what restrictions can be eased.

In a bid to stop the virus exploding again, Dr Tedros appealed to countries to rigorously enforce measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand washing and testing.

"The message to people and governments is clear: Do it all," he said at a news conference from the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

"A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection.

"However, there's no silver bullet at the moment - and there might never be."

"There are concerns that we may not have a vaccine that may work, or its protection could be for just a few months, not more.

"But until we finish the clinical trials, we will not know."

WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan said at the same event that countries with high transmission rates, such as Brazil and India, need to brace for a big battle and "reset" their approaches.

"Some countries are really going to have to take a step back now and really take a look at how they are addressing the pandemic within their national borders," he cautioned.

There are just five vaccines in what is known as phase three - meaning they are in large-scale efficacy tests.

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Sky News is tracking the race for a vaccine, which currently looks to be led by the British group from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

If successful, it will then be reviewed by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to check if it should be used on the general public.

Several countries, including the UK, have spent millions to pre-order supplies of the vaccine. It is based on earlier work to produce a vaccine against MERS, another deadly respiratory virus.

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