The World Health Organisation says it celebrated the discovery of COVID-19 vaccine as the year 2020 draws to an end.
WHO’s Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus stated this while giving a toast at the last COVID-19 press conference of the year at WHO headquarters in Geneva.
In a speech posted on the agency’s website, Ghebreyesus said that as the year closes, people around the world raised a toast to mark both passing and the coming years.
“People raised a toast for the passing of the year and the dawn of a new one, let me raise a toast to science.
“May we share its results – especially the vaccines – fairly and equitably in the year ahead and together end this pandemic,’’ he said.
Ghebreyesus however, said that there would be setbacks and new challenges in the year ahead.
“For example, new variants of COVID-19 and helping people who are tired of the pandemic continue to combat it.
“At present, we are working closely with scientists all over the world to better understand any and all changes to the virus.
“We are working with scientists to know how these changes affect its ability to spread or make people sick, or any potential impact on available tests, treatments and vaccines.
“Specifically we are working with scientists in the UK and South Africa who are carrying out epidemiologic and laboratory studies, which will guide next steps,’’ he said.
He, however, thanked those countries for testing and tracking new variants and underscores the importance of increasing genomic sequencing capacity worldwide.
“This means the prompt sharing of epidemiological, virological, and full genome sequence information with WHO and other countries and research teams, including through open-source platforms such as `GISAID’ and others.
“Only if countries are looking and testing effectively will you be able to pick up variants and adjust strategies to cope.
“We must ensure that countries are not punished for transparently sharing new scientific findings.
“I am so humbled to work with scientists, epidemiologists and public health experts in WHO and around the world”.
According to him, this week marks one-year anniversary since WHO learned of cases of ‘pneumonia with unknown cause’ via a bulletin issued by the health authorities in Wuhan and ProMed.
“We immediately set up an incident management structure to follow this development.
“This is a moment for all of us to reflect on the toll the pandemic has taken, the progress we have made, the lessons we have learned, and what we need to do in the year ahead to end this pandemic.
“For the past year, WHO and our partners have worked relentlessly to support all countries as they respond to the virus”.
Ghebreyesus said WHO staff worked around the clock to accelerate science, provided solutions on the ground and build solidarity.
“Science is at the core of everything we do and it has advanced at a blistering speed this year.
“If we rewind to the start of 2020, it was on Jan. 10 that WHO published its first comprehensive package of guidance documents for countries, covering topics related to the management of an outbreak of a new disease.”