The administration of United States President Donald Trump has said it will not work with an international cooperative effort to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, because it does not want to be constrained by multilateral groups like the World Health Organization (WHO).
The decision to go it alone, first reported by The Washington Post, follows the White House’s decision in early July to pull the US out of the WHO. Trump claims the WHO is in need of reform and is heavily influenced by China.
Some nations have worked directly to secure vaccine supplies, but others are pooling efforts to ensure success against a disease that has no geographical boundaries. More than 150 countries are setting up the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or COVAX.
That cooperative effort, linked with the WHO, would allow nations to take advantage of a portfolio of potential vaccines to ensure their citizens are quickly covered by whichever ones are deemed effective.
The WHO says even governments making deals with individual vaccine makers would benefit from joining COVAX because it would provide backup vaccines in case the ones being made through bilateral deals with manufacturers are not successful.
“The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organisations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere on Tuesday.
“This president will spare no expense to ensure that any new vaccine maintains our own Food and Drug Administration’s gold standard for safety and efficacy, [and] is thoroughly tested and saves lives.”
So far, there is no coronavirus vaccine anywhere in the world that has been approved for full use.
Third phase of development
The US-based biotechnology company Moderna is in the third phase of trials for its vaccine, meaning the vaccine has been approved for early or limited use – the last step before being made available to the market.
The final trial of the government-funded vaccine will involve about 30,000 individuals, but it is unclear when that phase will be concluded.
AstraZeneca, a United Kingdom-based company, also said that its vaccine candidate has entered the final testing stage in the US. Another vaccine is being developed jointly by the US company Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech.
Other countries including Russia, China and Australia said that their vaccines are also in the third phase of development.
The US has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases, numbering more than six million, as well as deaths, nearing 185,000.
Trump has repeatedly said that the US could have a coronavirus vaccine before the November 3 presidential election, although none of the vaccines being developed in the US have completed the trial phase, which is crucial in determining the efficacy of drugs.
In early August, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, said that studies on the Moderna vaccine could produce definitive data in November or December of this year.
But he said that the approved COVID-19 vaccine could end up being effective only 50 to 60 percent of the time.
Fauci added that the chance of the vaccine being 98 percent effective “is not great.”