Geneva. Healthy young people might not get the coronavirus vaccine until 2022 as public health officials focus on immunizing the elderly and other vulnerable groups first, top officials from the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, said health workers, frontline workers and the elderly will likely be offered a vaccine first, though prioritization details are still being worked out by the WHO and its advisory groups. And, of course, a vaccine for the virus has yet to be deemed safe and effective by the WHO, the European Union or the United States.
“People tend to think that 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.”
She added that the world will hopefully have at least one safe and effective vaccine by 2021, but it will be available in “limited quantities.” The WHO’s strategic advisory group of experts on immunization, or SAGE, recently published guidelines for countries on how to consider prioritizing different groups of people.
More than 10 coronavirus vaccines around the world are in late-stage clinical trials, Swaminathan said, adding that as various vaccines are potentially cleared for distribution, SAGE will release guidance on what populations each vaccine is best suited for and how to logistically distribute it.
“Most people agree that it’s starting with healthcare workers and frontline workers, but even then you need to define which of them are at highest risk and then the elderly and so on,” Swaminathan said. “There will be a lot of guidance coming out, but I think an average person, a healthy young person might have to wait until 2022 to get a vaccine.”
Like the WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are preparing to prioritize certain at-risk communities for distribution of the scarce doses. But the U.S. timeline will likely look very different from that of the WHO. -CNBC