WHO chief scientist hails ‘incremental’ basis of scientific progress

Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organisation.

United Nations, (Asian independent)¬†As the world awaits the first wave of Covid-19 vaccinations, the chief scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), hailed the “incremental” nature of scientific progress that launched the record breaking speed at which the first of several coronavirus vaccines are coming to market.

“I think one important lesson is to understand that science is an incremental process,” Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist said at a special United Nations session on Covid-19.

“If over the last couple of years, there had not been those investments in the platform technologies in, you know, these new modes of of delivering vaccines, or the mRNA platform, and the adenoviral vector platform, we would not have been able to move so quickly from discovering this new virus to having vaccines going into people’s arms in trials within a matter of, you know, two to three months.”

From the time China made public the genetic sequence of the virus, it’s been about 320 days. Swaminathan called this start-to-finish timeline “unbelievable”.

Swaminathan’s remarks focused on the “preparatory” role that made the Covid-19 vaccines possible at lightning speed – “not just in the technology platforms, but also in getting some consensus and some global coordination mechanisms”.

The WHO chief scientist said that the impressive efficacy achieved by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are “proof of principle” that nearly a decade of work that has gone into eight different vaccine platforms was worth it, even when science wasn’t on the “front pages.”

In recent weeks, Moderna reported 94.1 per cent vaccine efficacy against Covid-19 and 100 per cent vaccine efficacy in “severe” cases. Pfizer’s emergency use application in the US is based on 95 per cent efficacy in a study that recruited nearly 44,000 participants. Pfizer’s vaccine has already been greenlighted in the UK.