America’s top infectious diseases official has raised concerns over Covid-19 vaccines being developed by China and Russia as the world scrambles for answers to a pandemic the WHO warned will be felt for decades.
Six months after the World Health Organisation declared a global emergency, the novel coronavirus has killed more than 680,000 people and infected more than 17.5mn.
As countries across Western Europe announced new lockdowns and reported historic economic slumps, the UN health body said the pandemic was a “once-in-a-century” crisis.
Several Chinese companies are at the forefront of the race to develop a vaccine to the disease and Russia has set a target date of September to roll out its own medicine.
But US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said it was unlikely his country would use any vaccine developed in either country, where regulatory systems are far more opaque than they are in the West.
“I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone,” he told a US Congressional hearing on Friday.
“Claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing, I think, is problematic, at best.”
As part of its own “Operation Warp Speed,” the US government will pay pharma giants Sanofi and GSK up to $2.1bn for the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, the companies said.
Mexico meanwhile surpassed Britain as the country with the third-highest coronavirus death toll on Friday, as the pandemic reaches new milestones in Latin America and threatens to disrupt efforts to reopen the region’s reeling economies.
The record places Mexico behind Brazil, Latin America’s largest and most populous nation, and the United States. More than 91,000 people have died in Brazil, and the US death toll has topped 152,000.
Mexico on Friday recorded 688 fatalities to bring its death toll to 46,688, with 424,637 confirmed cases.
The United Kingdom has recorded 46,204 deaths and 304,793 cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Mexican officials say the pandemic is likely far more extensive than official figures reflect.
The rising tolls have cemented Latin America’s status as one of the epicentres of the virus. Cases in the region have doubled over the past month to more than 4.7mn infections.
Colombia, where lockdowns are planned through the end of August, passed the 10,000 death benchmark on Friday, tallying 10,105 fatalities. The Andean country is expected to reach 300,000 total cases over the weekend.
While the United Kingdom appears to have put the brakes on the virus, the pandemic shows few signs of slowing in Mexico, which has been trying to restart the economy since late May.
“We’re opening when we’re not yet ready to open,” said Rosa Maria del Angel, head of Infectomics and Molecular Pathogenesis at Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute.
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