A COVID-19 vaccine no matter how effective won't end the current COVID-19 increase, the World Health Organization says.

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's health emergencies program, said some people think vaccines will be the solution. They won't, he said.

"The unicorn we've all been chasing. It's not," Ryan said. "How do we get COVID to equal zero? Adding vaccines is going to give us a huge chance, but if we add vaccines and forget the other things, COVID does not go to zero."

He said while we're not there with vaccines yet, "We will get there, but we're not there."

"And many countries are going through this wave, and they're going to go through this wave and continue through this wave without vaccines."

He said the outcomes for severely ill patients will get worse in countries with overstretched health care systems since health care workers are increasingly being forced to do more.

Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, head of World Health Organization's emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said a COVID-19 vaccine will be an important addition to a toolkit of public health measures necessary to thwart COVID-19 untrammeled global expansion.

Other tools in the fight against COVID-19 include drugs to treat severely ill patients and adherence to proven public health measures like social distancing, mask wearing, avoiding crowds and hand hygiene.

"We have in our power right now the tools to change the course of this pandemic, and we're seeing countries do it," she said.

"We are also seeing countries that are in scary situations starting to make a little bit of a turn. We're starting to see a decline in incidence with measures that have been put in place."

High on the World Health Organization's agenda is the ACT Accelerator and ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, new rapid tests and therapeutics.

The European Commission, France, Spain, the Republic of Korea and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $360 million to COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the ACT Accelerator. New contributions bring the total committed to $5.1 billion.

The World Health Organization said another $4.2 billion is urgently needed and a further $23.9 billion will be required in 2021 to ensure tools are rolled out quickly across the world so "we save lives, stabilize health systems and drive a truly global recovery."

"The time has come for a fundamental shift toward health being seen as an investment, rather than a cost, and the foundation of productive, resilient and stable economies. Health is central," said World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanon-Ghebreyesus.