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At a two-day meeting held in Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says a vaccine for the new coronavirus may be available in 18 months.

WHO officially named the disease caused by the new coronavirus Covid-19, responsible for 1,115 deaths and more than 45,100 cases worldwide, as of the end of 11 February.

The two-day meeting by WHO is intended to determine a roadmap to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The aim is to identify knowledge gaps and research priorities to expedite the availability of medical products for the virus.

Nearly 300 scientists, public health agencies, ministries of health and research funders have gathered at the meeting to share information and formulate response plans.

Ghebreyesus notes that the new coronavirus currently lacks vaccine and proven therapies, highlighting the need for more scientific evidence about the virus.

The director-general calls for information on virus reservoirs, transmission patterns and degree of its infectiousness. Furthermore, the forum is intended to identify the best samples for diagnosis and monitoring.

The focus will be on approaches to manage severe cases and any challenges with research ethics.

Emphasising the need for treatments, Ghebreyesus said: “it may be 18 months before the first vaccine is available, so we have to do everything today, using available weapons.”

The director-general said that the virus must be considered as ‘public enemy number one’, in terms of public health.

WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib added: “We are still in the very early stage of understanding this virus. How it is transmitted, the source of the virus, the incubation period, the clinical features, the severity of it, 99% of cases are in China; this remains very much an emergency for that country, but it’s also a high risk for the region, Asia and for the world.”

Commenting about the WHO meeting, Chaib said: “They are not only talking about vaccines or therapeutics or diagnostic tests, they will also talk about the human-animal interface of this virus. They will also talk about the clinical features of the patients they have seen, they will share information about all of this.”