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COVID-19 vaccine may be ready by year-end, says WHO's Tedros

GENEVA (Reuters) - A vaccine against COVID-19 may be ready by year-end, the head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organized by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for solidarity and political commitment by all leaders to ensure equal distribution of vaccines when they become available.

“We will need vaccines and there is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine. There is hope,” Tedros said in final remarks to the WHO’s Executive Board, without elaborating.

Nine experimental vaccines are in the pipeline of the WHO’s COVAX global vaccine facility that aims to distribute 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.

The two-day board meeting, which examined the global response to the pandemic, heard calls from countries including Germany, Britain and Australia for reforms to strengthen the U.N. agency.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has strongly criticised the WHO’s role in the crisis, accusing it of being too close to China and not doing enough to question Beijing’s actions late last year when the virus first emerged in Wuhan.

Tedros has dismissed the suggestions and said his agency has kept the world informed.

Three independent panels reviewing WHO performance including its 2005 International Health Regulations - which set guidelines on trade and travel restrictions imposed during health emergencies - gave updates on their work.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, met for the first time last month.

“We hope to get the real lessons that we can implement and prevent the same thing from happening,” Tedros said. “But I would like to assure you that WHO is ready to learn from this and change this organisation.

“During our transformation we promised this, we promised to keep change as a constant,” he said, referring to his programme since taking the helm in 2017.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Michael Shields, Alexandra Hudson and Giles Elgood

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