ATHENS – It's too late for now or even if a second wave comes this year but Greek health experts expect the world will produce a COVID-19 vaccine by early 2021, although it won't be mandatory to get the shot here.
A Health Ministry team is examining the data of the most promising vaccines and developing a plan to negotiate quantities and prices with their producers once it's available after a fast-track to get it done.
“We are waiting for the developments,” President of the National Organization for Medicines (EOF) Dimitrios Filippou told Kathimerini. “If everything goes as planned, and I stress if, at the beginning of 2021, we may have a vaccine for commercial use.”
He said arrival of a sufficient number of vaccines in each country will depend on the production capacity of the companies developing them and whether they prove effective after an unprecedented rush by companies around the world.
Reportedly, a vaccine developed at the University of Oxford has a relatively easy production process although the Tarryton, New York-based Regeneron in June began a clinical trial of REGN-COV2, its investigational dual antibody cocktail for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
George D. Yancopoulos, MD, PhD, Co-Founder, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron, had told The National Herald in an interview in March about the effort to develop the antibody cocktail.
“We have created a unique anti-viral antibody cocktail with the potential both to prevent and treat infection, and also to preempt viral 'escape,' a critical precaution in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic,” said Dr. Yancopoulos said in the press release. “REGN-COV2 could have a major impact on public health by slowing spread of the virus and providing a needed treatment for those already sick – and could be available much sooner than a vaccine.”
He said that, “The antibody cocktail approach may also have long-term utility for elderly and immuno-compromised patients, who often do not respond well to vaccines. Ultimately, the world needs multiple solutions for COVID-19, and the innovative biopharma industry is collectively working hard to help as many people as possible with a variety of complementary approaches.”
If a vaccine is found and made available it won't be mandatory in Greece but “strongly recommended,” Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said.
Greece has anti-vaccination camps – like others in the United States and other countries where vaccinations are viewed as government conspiracies, so-called Anti-Vaxxers opposing the use of injections to protect the populace.
Kikilias said if there's a vaccine it would first be offered to the highest-risk segments of society, the elderly and those with underlying conditions, who more easily succumbed to the Coronavirus.
“Who are they? Our older fellow citizens and vulnerable groups fulfilling the conditions to be vaccinated as a priority,” Kikilias told TV station SKAI. “There is now question of vaccine sufficiency and there is no mandatory vaccination, but a strong recommendation,” he added.
“Vulnerable groups,” such as the elderly and those with serious underlying diseases, will have priority, the minister said, adding that there will be no problem with vaccine supplies.
Greece has one of the best records in the world in holding down the number of cases and deaths, an early lockdown on March 23 before a single fatality cited, along with Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis deferring to scientists for their advice.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)