The World Health Organization (WHO) has begun the first trial of the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine.

"As you know, the first vaccine trial has begun, just 60 days after the genetic sequence of the virus was shared by China. This is an incredible achievement," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing on March 18.

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"We commend the researchers around the world who have come together to systemically evaluate experimental therapeutics," he added.

Yet, he says multiple small trials with different methodologies may not give the "clear, strong evidence we need about which treatments help to save lives."

WHO and its partners are therefore organizing a study in many countries in which some of these untested treatments are compared with each other.

"This large, international study is designed to generate the robust data we need, to show which treatments are the most effective. We have called this study the SOLIDARITY trial," he said.