Healthy, young people may need to wait until 2022 for a coronavirus vaccine, a World Health Organization official warned on Wednesday, as countries look to prioritize those most at risk for infection.
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, said COVID-19 vaccines will hopefully come in 2021, however, quantities will be limited. She said there are about 11 vaccines worldwide in late-stage testing, and another 200 candidates under development.
“People tend to think, ‘Ah, on the first of January or the first of April I’m going to get the vaccine and then things will be back to normal,’” Swaminathan said. “It’s not going to work like that because no one has ever produced vaccines in these volumes that are going to be needed.”
She said the WHO has a group called the strategic advisory group of experts on immunization (SAGE), which recently released a document to guide countries on determining prioritization of vaccines.
“I think most people agree that the people at highest risk of both transmission, getting the disease, and getting sick from it are health care workers, frontline workers and then the elderly and the vulnerable,” she said.
Countries should start preparing a distribution plan and determine how vaccines will be delivered through the health system, she continued, adding that she expects a lot of guidance still to come out.
“A healthy young person might have to wait until 2022 to get a vaccine, but by that time hopefully we can stem the acute impacts, reduce mortality, protect those who are at highest risk. Start solving the acute problems and then we start by protecting the larger percentage of the population.”
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, emphasized the importance of vaccinating those at highest risk in all countries first, instead of vaccinating everyone in a single country.