Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva, Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program said vaccinating the most vulnerable people, including healthcare workers, would help remove the “tragedy and fear” from the situation and would help to ease pressure on hospitals, the “virus is very much in control”.
“It will be very premature, and I think unrealistic, to think that we’re going to finish with this virus by the end of the year.
“If the vaccines begin to impact not only on death and not only on hospitalisation, but have a significant impact on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe we will accelerate toward controlling this pandemic,” Michael Ryan added.
Adding up to Mr Ryan’s submission, the chief scientist of the WHO, Dr Soumya Swaminathan said “the goal of COVAX is to bring an end to the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021.”
COVAX is a program led by the WHO, Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) aiming at distributing COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
Interestingly, the number of new global infections rose last week for the first time in almost two months. Reported cases increased in four of the WHO’s six regions: the Americas, Europe, South-East Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Reacting to the news of increased cases in the four regions, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO said, “This is disappointing, but not surprising.”
“We’re working to better understand these increases in transmission. Some of it appears to be due to relaxing of public health measures, continued circulation of variants, and people letting down their guard.”
He said while vaccines would help to save lives, “if countries rely solely on vaccines, they’re making a mistake”.
“Basic public health measures remain the foundation of the response,” he said.
“And it’s regrettable that some countries continue to prioritise vaccinating younger, healthier adults at lower risk of disease in their own populations ahead of health workers and older people elsewhere,” he said.
“Countries are not in a race with each other, this is a common race against the virus.
We’re not asking countries to put their own people at risk. We’re asking all countries to be part of a global effort to suppress the virus everywhere.
“We are also concerned about the reported arrest of health workers in Myanmar that could affect the response to Covid-19 and the delivery of other essential health services. And in Ethiopia, the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region has put many health facilities and hospitals out of action. We are deeply concerned about the risk of diseases due to lack of food, clean water, shelter and access to health care.”