China expects Covid-19 vaccine to be ready in November

BEIJING Several vaccine candidates progressed very smoothly through the final stage of clinical trials, Wu Guizhen, chief biosafety expert at China’s Disease Control and Prevention Centre, in an interview with state television on Tuesday.

She said the shots will be ready for public use as early as November or December. She had the vaccine administered in April and has felt “nothing abnormal”.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates used to think of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as the world’s premier public-health authority. Not anymore, reports Bloomberg.

And he doesn’t trust the Centres for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) either. Both, in his view, are

casualties of a presidency that has downplayed or dismissed science and medicine in the pursuit of political gain. One recent example came when FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, speaking at one of US President Donald Trump’s news conferences, exaggerated the benefit of blood plasma as a treatment for Covid-19, then backtracked the following day.

“We saw with the completely bungled plasma statements that when you start pressuring people to say optimistic things, they go completely off the rails. The FDA lost a lot of credibilities there,” Gates, the billionaire philanthropist, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

“Historically, just like the CDC was viewed as the best in the world,

the FDA had that same reputation as a top-notch regulator,” Gates said. “But there’s been some cracks with some of the things they’ve said at the commissioner level.”

At stake is nothing less than public confidence in the vaccine that could end the coronavirus pandemic, and which the FDA would have to approve. Polls conducted in the past two months show a majority of Americans worry the development of the vaccine is being rushed and a third wouldn’t get inoculated.

In the meantime, Trump has made no secret of his hope that a vaccine will be ready before the Nov 3 election. Last week, he hinted that one could be approved next month, also saying it would be “safe and effective”.

Like the rest of the country, Gates, is now in the unfamiliar position of having to put his faith in the companies working on Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, not the agency that regulates them.

Nine of those companies on Sept 8 pledged to put science and ethics first, prioritising safety over speed in the development of any vaccine they submit for emergency approval. The FDA has since said drugmakers have to meet a higher standard than normal for such authorisation.

“These companies are very professional and the benefits of the vaccine here are very dramatic,” Gates said. “Thank goodness that we have this private-sector expertise that we want to shape into a global public good that gets to everybody on the planet.”

While acknowledging that side effects are always possible, Gates said he expects a safe vaccine to come out of the development effort.

It found vaccination levels for all diseases globally have dropped to the lowest in 25 years because of pandemic lockdowns and economic destabilization.

By spending an additional US$8 billion (RM33.04 trillion) to US$10 billion on global vaccinations, he said, the US would save “trillions” in lost economic output, not to mention lives and livelihoods. And it would help prevent the virus from re-emerging in wave after wave of infection. — Bloomberg