The Asia-Pacific region is not expected to have early access to COVID-19 vaccines and should continue to practise health and safety precautions against the coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), Western Pacific Region Director, Takeshi Kasai, made this remarks in an online news conference from the agency’s regional headquarters on Thursday in Manila.
Only a limited number of COVID-19 vaccines would be initially available and most countries in Asia-Pacific might only have access to the shots by mid or late 2021, Kasai said.
“The news of vaccines, starting to roll out in Britain and the U.S., is very promising,’’ Kasai said.
“But these vaccines are not a silver bullet that will end the pandemic in the near future.’’
“The development of safe and effective vaccines is one thing, producing them in adequate quantities and reaching everyone who needs them is another,’’ he added.
“This means that tired as we all are of this pandemic, we must stick to the actions and behaviours which protect not only ourselves but also those around us.’’
Kasai singled out “younger, more socially active people, maybe those under the age of 40’’ in his appeal against complacency.
This is especially as the region prepares to mark important religious and cultural festivals such as Christmas and New Year.
He reminded young people that they may unknowingly pass on the virus to their parents, grandparents, neighbours and friends who may have underlying conditions that make them more at risk of suffering severe COVID-19.
“So please do everything you can to avoid infection, for yourself and for everybody around you,’’ he said.
Kasai added that by following health protocols, young people can directly contribute to efforts to protect communities as well as revive societies and economies.
For the Yuletide season, he urged people to stick to actions and behaviour that have protected many in the region in the past months.
“Remember that the best way to show love and care for those in your life is to not give hugs or gather in large groups the way you normally do.’’
“I know this is difficult, but for now we must keep making the choices that will reduce transmission of the virus and protect our families and our communities.
“By doing so we can go into 2021 with hope.
“WHO is working with partners to speed up the development and manufacturing of safe and effective vaccines.
“It is also working to ensure that there is fair and equitable access to these vaccines for all countries,’’ he added
The regional body is equally helping countries prepare logistically for storage and distribution of the vaccines, he added.
He noted that if the right scale and type of investments are made, there should be adequate doses of vaccines for most by the end of 2021. (dpa/NAN)