The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it does not expect widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine before the middle of next year.

Speaking on the issue on Friday, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said that the WHO would have to do a stringent check of the vaccines’ efficacy and safety, which is being seen as a major reason for the delay in the delivery of potential COVID-19 vaccines. Harris stated that none of the vaccine candidates in the advanced clinical trials so far showed clear signs of having 50% of the capacity as expected by the WHO.

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The United Nations health agency's statement comes at a time when the United States is in a hurry after Russia over the COVID-19 vaccine. Only last month, Russia gave regulatory approval to a vaccine, even as a second trial of the vaccine did not yield results and a third trial did not take place. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued instructions to all the states that they should be ready to distribute the vaccine from 1 November, 2020.

Meanwhile, US health officials and pharmaceutical company Pfizer on Thursday said their vaccine may be ready to be delivered by the end of October. Political and medical experts there say that it is not surprising owing to the impending presidential elections on 3 November, with the final results coming before the end of the year.

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The WHO will compare data from all vaccine trials, with the spokesperson saying, “Many people have been vaccinated. (But) we don't know if they work or not. At this time we do not know whether this vaccine matches our level of competence and safety.”

According to the WHO, as many as 172 countries which are part of its COVAX initiative are in the process of developing vaccines against the coronavirus infection that continues to wreak havoc on the lives of people around the world. 

The WHO is working on a plan for worldwide vaccine distribution through its COVAX initiative, especially for economically weaker countries. The work is also supported by the vaccine alliance Gavi, funded by the Gates Foundation. 

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Under COVAX, the WHO intends to produce two billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021.

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