WHO: 2 Million Coronavirus Deaths "Not Impossible"

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization.

As the global death toll from the coronavirus approaches 1 million, the World Health Organization has said that it's "not impossible" for that number to double if countries don't work together to curb the virus' spread. “It’s certainly unimaginable, but it’s not impossible, because if we look at losing 1 million people in nine months and then we just look at the realities of getting vaccines out there in the next nine months, it’s a big task for everyone involved,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said in regard to if the coronavirus death toll could rise to 2 million people.

“The real question is: Are we prepared, collectively, to do what it takes to avoid that number?” He said.

The coronavirus has taken the world by storm since it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. Altogether, there have been more than 30 million cases recognized globally and with a current death toll of about 990,000 people. Among the most hit countries include India, Brazil, Russia, and the US, which has recorded more than 200 thousand deaths, the highest so far of any country. 

Nations around the world have taken precautions as they await remedies including a possible vaccine that could be produced soon. It's such that biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies around the globe have rallied to come up with a coronavirus vaccine, among them Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Novavax, Merck and the likes. Big reservations have already been made for potential vaccines, including a $1.5 billion order from Moderna made by the US government. The U.K. government likewise has signed deals for 90 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine from Belgian pharmaceutical company Janssen and US biotech company Novavax. 

Amid hopes of a vaccine, the WHO has, however, warned that precaution should still be maintained. “Whether another million people die of Covid-19 is not a function of whether or not we have a vaccine. It’s a function of whether or not we put the tools, approaches and knowledge we have today to work to save lives and prevent transmission,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor to WHO's director-general, said.

“If we start thinking about it as a function of the vaccine, people will unnecessarily and unacceptably die as we wait for a vaccine,” he said. “We should not be waiting.” Aylward said.

Photo credit: Russell Watkins/U.K. Department for International Development