Global COVID-19 death could reach 2 million before the vaccine becomes available: WHO

The global death toll from COVID-19 could reach 2 million before a successful vaccine becomes widely used, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

WHO Emergency Program Director Mike Ryan said, noting that the current COVID-19 death toll stands at more than 980,000 deaths worldwide in less than nine months, said reaching 2 million deaths is “certainly unimaginable.”

Ryan said countries should do all they can to keep the death toll down.

“Remember, we have things we can do now to drive transmission down and drive down the number of deaths,” he said.

The number of deaths about nine months since the novel coronavirus was discovered in China is nearing 1 million.

He said young people should not be blamed for a recent increase in infections despite growing concerns that they are driving its spread after restrictions and lockdowns were eased around the world.

The WHO is continuing talks with China about its possible involvement in the COVAX financing scheme designed to guarantee fast and equitable access globally to COVID-19 vaccines, a week after the deadline for committing passed.

“We`re in discussions with China about the role they may play as we go forward,” said Bruce Aylward, WHO senior adviser and head of the ACT-Accelerator program to back vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics against COVID-19.

He confirmed that Taiwan has signed up to the scheme, even though it is not a WHO member, bringing the total to 159 participants. Some 34 are still deciding.

Talks with China also include discussion of the world`s second-largest economy potentially supplying vaccines to the scheme, he said.

The UN agency published on Friday draft criteria for the assessment of emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines to help guide drugmakers as vaccine trials reach advanced stages, said WHO assistant director-general, Mariangela Simao.

The document will be available for public comment until October 8, she said.

Earlier on Friday, a Chinese health official said the WHO had given its support for the country to start administering experimental coronavirus vaccines to people even while clinical trials were still underway.

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