COVID drug hurdle

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Centre for Life vaccination hub, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Newcastle, Britain January 11, 2021. REUTERS/Lee Smith

The World Health Organization (WHO) is reviewing COVID-19 vaccines that would be more adaptive to Fiji and the Pacific, says WHO representative in the South Pacific Dr Corinne Capuano.

She said the type of climate experienced in the Pacific was a challenge as the vaccines had different requirements. Dr Capuano revealed there were a number of vaccines that were still being developed.

“At this stage, 10 vaccines or 10 manufacturers have applied or expressed interest in going through the WHO use listing process,” she said.

“Some of these vaccines have different technologies, meaning they have different requirements in terms of number of doses and cold chain capacities.”

She said a number of these vaccines could be challenging to deploy in the Pacific. “Some vaccines require minus 70, minus 80 degrees Celsius cold chains.

This is particularly challenging in the Pacific setting because it requires having access to dry ice and not all Pacific Island countries have that capacity.”

She said the vaccines were not “silver or magic bullets” as people would still need to keep the non-pharmaceutical interventions ongoing.

“It means even when we have excess to the vaccines, considering the capacity of the manufacturing companies, we can’t accept the worldwide demand and we can’t expect having all the doses we need for everyone in the world.

“What we refer to by these interventions is the wearing of masks, physical distancing, handwashing, and so all these measures will have to keep going because it will take time before everyone who is eligible, can be vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong confirmed that Fiji had the capacity to store Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

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