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Researchers around the world back WHO vaccine efforts

Global support for health agency efforts in week that saw it attacked by US president

Scores of top researchers across the globe have pledged their support for World Health Organization efforts to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, in another show of international support for the agency.

Scientists and senior figures from research funding bodies and companies signed an open letter this week pledging to “continue efforts to strengthen the unprecedented worldwide collaboration, cooperation and sharing of data already underway”.

The public letter—which has the support of groups including Public Health England and the US Department of Health and Human Services—comes in the same week that US president Donald Trump followed through on his threat to stop funding the agency. Although it does not directly address this, the letter sends a strong signal on the value of international cooperation against Covid-19.

The authors pledge to “help reduce inefficiencies and duplication of effort” and say they will “work tenaciously to increase the likelihood that one or more safe and effective vaccines will soon be made available to all”.

The move follows the 9 April draft publication of the WHO’s research and development blueprint for Covid-19 treatments, which lays out plans for a massive international clinical trial involving numerous centres and hospitals around the world. The trial aims to whittle down the most promising treatments, evaluating candidate vaccines in between three to six months.

WHO also recently appointed Andrew Witty, CEO of the healthcare company Optum, as co-lead for Covid-19 vaccine development, according to the company.

“I am deeply honoured to help lead this mission to seek a Coivd-19 vaccine,” said Witty.

The WHO has yet to publish information on Witty’s appointment or that of the other co-lead on the initiative.

Research Professional News has contacted the WHO for comment.