Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, says the entity will only support the distribution of a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to member countries that is proven to be safe and effective in clinical trials, reviewed by national regulatory authorities, and recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday (October 21), Dr. Etienne indicated that there are currently 118 vaccine candidates under study with 11 in the concluding phase-three stage of clinical trials, several of which involve volunteers from countries in the Americas.
The Director said vaccines are developed and manufactured “with safety in mind”, noting that the process is supervised by regulators and followed closely by the scientific community.
She pointed out that once a vaccine proves safe and effective in clinical trials, regulatory agencies thoroughly evaluate the data prior to granting any approvals.
Additionally, she said the WHO will oversee an independent review process before granting its own recommendation.
“While the global community is concerned with the nature of this pandemic, the regulatory approval process will be just as thorough as the process taken for any other vaccine,” Dr. Etienne said.
Further, she noted that even after a vaccine is approved, countries globally are expected to and will monitor its safety and effectiveness over time, “as they do with every other vaccine on the market today”.
Dr. Etienne said that the manner in which information on COVID-19 vaccines is communicated “will make or break our ability to control the pandemic”.
“It is vital that the public is provided with clear, concise and science-based information about a future C-19 vaccine and PAHO is working closely with countries in our region to help ensure this,” she said.
Against this background, the Director urged stakeholders, including media/communications practitioners, national regulatory authorities, the private sector, and scientific community, “to help us ensure accurate information and effectively tackle misinformation”.
“So, it’s important to emphasise that while we are working to develop a vaccine faster than ever before, the process to guarantee its safety and efficacy [remains] unchanged,” Dr. Etienne assured.
The region of the Americas has, to date, recorded 18.9 million confirmed COVID-19 case and more than 610,000 deaths.