Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam (REUTERS/Rogan Ward)
Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has cautioned that a large number of people “probably won’t have access” to a COVID-19 vaccine even if one is developed by 2021, due to uneven distribution.
Answering questions at the Singapore Summit virtual conference on September 14, Tharman said the pandemic “will not be over” in a year’s time and that a vaccine should not be thought of as a “silver bullet,” Bloomberg reported.
He also pointed out that distribution of vaccines will be a “huge challenge”, but “cheap, quick and non-invasive testing and social distancing” should mitigate transmission in the meantime.
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Tharman’s view concurs with that of Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla who also warned of shortage of COVID-19 vaccine till 2024 at least; and WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan’s prediction that the pandemic would take four to five years to be controlled.
These comments, however, are on the other side of pharma chiefs’ optimistic outlook.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla felt the company’s vaccine candidate, being developed in partnership with BioNTech’s COVID-19, could reach Americans before 2020-end, if proven to be safe and effective by federal regulators such as the US Food and Drugs Administration.
While AstraZeneca on September 12 said it had resumed clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine in the United Kingdom after regulators completed their review of a serious side effect in one trial participant there. AstraZeneca, which is working with University of Oxford, has said the MHRA confirmed it is safe to resume British trials.
On the market effects of the pandemic, Tharman said it would put emerging markets at risk and add pressure on pre-existing trends including maintaining sustainable debts and possible wipe-out of a significant number of small and mid-size companies.
On global trade tensions between the United State and China, he said the situation would get worse before it gets better, but there is “enough space” for others to continue to find “win-win partnerships”Follow our full COVID-19 coverage here