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China probably saved hundreds of thousands of coronavirus cases: WHO

The WHO team in recent days inspected various parts of China including Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and the epicentre of the outbreak.

February 24, 2020 / 08:12 PM IST

China's "incredibly difficult measures" in tackling the coronavirus that emerged late last year has probably prevented hundreds of thousands of cases in the country, the head of a visiting World Health Organization (WHO) delegation said.

Bruce Aylward, speaking at a joint press briefing with officials from China's National Health Commission (NHC), said multiple data sources supported the general downward trend in the number infections being reported by the commission despite some statistical issues observed in recent weeks.

The WHO team in recent days inspected various parts of China including Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and the epicentre of the outbreak.

The NHC earlier on Monday reported 409 new coronavirus cases, down from 648 a day earlier, as China began to unwind transport and travel curbs put in place since January to keep the virus from spreading further.

More than 20 province-level jurisdictions including Beijing and Shanghai reported zero infections, the best showing since the outbreak began.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Top leaders including President Xi Jinping have continued to preach vigilance, however, exhorting the public to keep its guard up. The virus has killed nearly 2,600 people in mainland China alone and infected nearly 80,000 to date.

More than 3,000 medical staff in China had been infected by the new coronavirus, National Health Commission official Liang Wannian told reporters, underscoring the threat posed by the virus.

Those infections mostly occurred in Hubei and were likely due to the lack of protective gear and fatigue, he said.

first published: Feb 24, 2020 08:09 pm