(FILES) This file photo taken on May 7, 2016 shows a mosquito in Mexico City.<br />Tens of thousands of babies may be born with debilitating Zika-related disorders in the course of the outbreak sweeping through Latin America and the Caribbean, researchers said on July 25, 2016. Mathematical projections suggest about 93.4 million people may catch the virus — including some 1.65 million pregnant women — before the epidemic fizzles out, a team reported in the journal Nature Microbiology. Eighty percent of people will develop mild symptoms or never even be aware they have the virus. / AFP PHOTO / YURI CORTEZ
About forty potential vaccines for the Zika virus are being tested, but none are likely to be available for women of childbearing age before 2020, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
WHO director Margaret Chan said the virus, linked to deformations in babies’ heads and brains, remained “firmly entrenched” in large parts of the world.
Although progress toward effective prevention has been made, with some drugs now in clinical trials, “a vaccine judged safe enough for use in women of childbearing age may not be fully licensed before 2020,” Chan said.
The agency declared in November that Zika was no longer a public health emergency, though Chan said Wednesday that the WHO was setting up a new support programme for countries around the world.
The outbreak, which emerged in Brazil in 2015, has affected some 70 countries.
While Zika, spread by infected mosquitoes as well as by sexual contact, causes only mild symptoms in most people, pregnant women with the virus risk giving birth to babies with microcephaly, a crippling deformation that leads to abnormally small brains and heads.
In June, the WHO said $122 million (113 million euros) was needed to fund an 18-month plan to fight infections of women of childbearing age.