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Vaccine trials of Covid are "encouraging", in response to the WHO, however it should take time to verify they’re protected for everybody

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Lab technicians handle capped vials as part of filling and packaging tests for the large-scale manufacture and delivery of the University of Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine candidate AZD1222, conducted on September 11, 2020 on a high-capacity aseptic vial filling line, the multinational Italian biologics manufacturing facility Corporate Catalent in Anagni.

Vincenzo Pinto | AFP via Getty Images

LONDON – The World Health Organization has welcomed updates from developers working to provide a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine, but warns that it "will take some time" for one to become widespread.

It comes shortly after AstraZeneca said its vaccine candidate for the coronavirus produced a similar immune response in older and younger adults.

The British pharmaceutical company, which works in partnership with Oxford University, said the negative reactions to its potential Covid vaccine were also lower in the elderly.

The announcement raised expectations that a potential vaccine could be developed before the end of the year and may have helped end the coronavirus pandemic that killed more than 1.16 million people.

When asked to respond to AstraZeneca's update, a WHO spokesperson told CNBC, "The immune systems of the elderly are less robust to COVID-19 and we hope future vaccines against COVID-19 will be used." will also be safe, efficacious and effective in this high risk population group with high mortality rates. "

"While the information from vaccine developers is encouraging, the WHO has not yet seen any published data on the effectiveness of a vaccine candidate in the elderly," the spokesman said on Wednesday via email.

The United Nations Health Department has stated that when they contract the coronavirus, older people, in addition to people of all ages with pre-existing medical conditions, are more likely than others to have a serious illness.

"Documenting the safety and efficacy of a vaccine that would be made widely available is critical. In order to make an informed decision, full data and extended follow-up are needed to gather the evidence," said the WHO Speaker.

"It will be some time before we have a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine – in every population group – and even longer before it is available to large numbers of people," they continued. "This is why it is important to continue to use public health tools and actions that we know are effective in preventing infection and breaking the chain of transmission."

Pandemic response

WHO comments come at a time when many are concerned about the prospect of strict lockdowns to cope with a recent surge in reported Covid cases and related deaths in Europe and the US.

Drug manufacturers and research centers strive to provide a safe and effective vaccine. The vaccine candidate developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is considered to be one of the pioneers in obtaining regulatory approval.

According to the WHO, there are currently more than 100 Covid-19 vaccine candidates in development. Some of them are already doing late-stage testing before applying for formal approval.

WHO has announced that it will work with scientists, companies and global health organizations to accelerate the response to pandemics.

It is also committed to facilitating the distribution of safe and effective vaccines to protect people in all countries, giving priority to those most at risk.

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Katherine Clark