The first vaccine for the novel coronavirus (nCoV 2019) could be ready in 18 months, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday, adding that preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus will be helpful as of now.
“The first vaccine could be ready in 18 months, so we have to do everything today using the available weapons to fight this virus, while preparing for the long term. We’ve sent supplies to countries to diagnose and treat patients and protect health workers,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“We’ve advised countries on how to prevent the spread of disease and care for those who are sick. We’re strengthening lab capacity all over the world. We’re training thousands of health workers. And we’re keeping the public informed about what everyone can do to protect their own health and that of others,” he said.
According to the Johns Hopkins real-time tracker of the disease, as of Wednesday, the death toll from the coronavirus touched 1,115, with 45,182 confirmed cases, mostly in China’s Wuhan, the epicentre of the disease.
In a sign of some respite, China’s senior medical adviser Zhong Nanshan on Tuesday said that coronavirus infections may be over by April. He said the number of new cases was falling in some places and held out hope that the epidemic may peak this month.
The WHO also renamed the coronavirus as COVID-19 to avoid stigma related to any country and region.
“Under agreed guidelines between WHO, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease,” said Ghebreyesus.
“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing. It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks,” he said.
He added that the development of vaccines and therapeutics is one important part of the research agenda, but it is only one part. They will take time to develop, but in the meantime, the world is not defenceless. “There are many basic public health interventions that are available to us now, and which can prevent infections now.”
“It’s when each and every individual becomes part of the containment strategy that we can succeed. That’s why reaching out to the public directly and telling them the precautions they should take,” he said.
Last week, WHO issued a call for $675 million, which it said the world needs to support preparedness and response operations in countries against the new virus.