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Ten key moments in WHO's COVID-19 response

Here are 10 key moments in the World Health Organization's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, since the first signs were detected in China.

March 29, 2021 / 02:36 PM IST

Here are 10 key moments in the World Health Organization's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, since the first signs were detected in China:

First alert

The WHO office in China picks up a media statement referring to cases of "viral pneumonia" on the website of the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on December 31, 2019.

WHO's epidemic intelligence service sees a media report on the international epidemic watch system ProMED about the same cluster of cases of "pneumonia of unknown cause" in Wuhan.

Human-to-human transmission signs


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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WHO says there is evidence of the virus passing between people on January 21, 2020.

"It is now very clear from the latest information that there is at least some human-to-human transmission," its Western Pacific branch writes on Twitter following a field mission to Wuhan.

The WHO says the next day that more analysis is needed to understand the "full extent of human-to-human transmission".

Emergency declared

WHO declares a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, sounding its highest alert.

No deaths have yet been confirmed outside China, but there were 82 confirmed cases in 18 other countries.

Disease named COVID-19

WHO names the new disease COVID-19 on February 11.

WHO had earlier called it "2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease" while China used the name "novel coronavirus pneumonia".

Pandemic arrives

WHO describes COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11 with more than 100 countries reporting cases.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns of the "alarming levels of spread and severity" and "alarming levels of inaction".

ACT-Accelerator launch

Tedros co-launches the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator to speed up work on vaccines and treatments on April 24.

Follow our LIVE blog for latest updates of the novel coronavirus pandemic

Also Read: WHO report says animals likely source of COVID-19

Facemasks recommendation

WHO changes its advice to recommend facemasks where virus transmission is widespread and physical distancing difficult on June 5.

More than two months later, the WHO says children aged 12 and over should follow the same mask guidelines as adults.

Airborne transmission

WHO points to "emerging evidence" that the virus might spread by air further than previously thought on July 7.

First vaccine approved

The WHO gives emergency use listing to the first vaccine, from Pfizer-BioNTech, on December 31.

AstraZeneca COVID-19 jabs got WHO approval on February 15, 2021, and the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on March 12.

Origins investigation

A joint report from a team of international experts and Chinese scientists, into the origins of COVID-19, becomes public on March 29, 2021.

The team, which spent four weeks in Wuhan in early 2021, claim in their report that it is "likely to very likely" that COVID-19 reached humans through an intermediary animal, while all but ruling out a laboratory leak incident.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.

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first published: Mar 29, 2021 02:35 pm
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