WHO: Asia-Pacific not expected to have early access to Covid vaccines

Photo taken on Jan. 22, 2020 shows an exterior view of the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO on Wednesday night extended to Thursday its emergency talks on whether the novel coronavirus outbreak in China constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). (Xinhua/Liu Qu)

The Asia-Pacific region was not expected to have early access to Covid-19 vaccines and should continue to practice health and safety precautions as protection against the coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday.

Only a limited number of Covid-19 vaccines would be initially available, and most countries in Asia-Pacific might only have access to the shots by mid-2021, said WHO Western Pacific region director Takeshi Kasai.

“The news of vaccines starting to roll out in (Britain) and the United States is very promising,” Kasai said in an online press conference from WHO’s regional headquarters in Manila. “But these vaccines are not a silver bullet that will end the pandemic in the near future.”

“The development of safe and effective vaccines is one thing, producing them in adequate quantities and reaching everyone who needs them is another,” he added.

“This means that tired as we all are of this pandemic, we must stick to the actions and behaviours which protect not only ourselves but also those around us.”

Kasai singled out “younger, more socially active people, maybe those under the age of 40” in his appeal against complacency, especially as the region prepares to mark important religious and cultural festivals such as Christmas and New Year.

Kasai urged young people to remember that they may unknowingly pass on the virus to their parents, grandparents, neighbours and friends who may have underlying conditions that make them more at risk of suffering severe Covid.

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