Sourced from AFP by Tracy Cabrera
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — According to the World Health Organization (WHO), despite the development of Covid-19 vaccines by several international drug makers, it would be unrealistic to even merely conjecture that the world will be done with the coronavirus disease pandemic by the end of the current year
In a statement, WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said it might, however, be possible to take the tragedy out of the coronavirus crisis by reducing hospitalizations and deaths—but the virus would still remain in control, especially given that global new case numbers increase every day after six consecutive weeks of decline.
“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,” Ryan pointed out in a media briefing.
“But I think what we can finish with, if we’re smart, is the hospitalizations, the deaths and the tragedy associated with this pandemic,” he quickly added.
Still, the WHO official said that vaccinating front-line health care workers and those most vulnerable to severe disease would “take the fear . . . out of the pandemic,” though saying that recent progress could not be taken for granted even as “right now the virus is very much in control.”
In a recent pronouncement, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that new case numbers of Covid-19 rose last week in Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia and the eastern Mediterranean.
“This is disappointing, but not surprising,” Tedros qualified.
“Some of it appears to be due to relaxing of public health measures, continued circulation of variants, and people letting down their guard. Vaccines will help to save lives, but if countries rely solely on vaccines, they’re making a mistake. Basic public health measures remain the foundation of the response,” he warned.
WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove added: “If the last week tells us anything, it’s that this virus will rebound if we let it—and we cannot let it.”
Tedros wants Covid-19 vaccination underway in every country within the first 100 days of 2021 — meaning there are 40 days left to go.
He welcomed Monday’s first injections of doses delivered through the global COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, which was administered in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
“It’s encouraging to see health workers in lower-income countries starting to be vaccinated, but it’s regrettable that this comes almost three months after some of the wealthiest countries started their vaccination campaigns,” the world’s health chief said.
“And it’s regrettable that some countries continue to prioritize vaccinating younger, healthier adults at lower risk of disease in their own populations ahead of health workers and older people elsewhere.”
A further 11 million vaccine doses will be delivered to countries this week through the COVAX program under WHO’s Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI), with 237 million doses to be allocated to 142 participating economies between now and the end of May.
The final allocation breakdown for the first wave of COVAX doses is to be released tomorrow, March 3.
As for the notion of Covid-19 vaccine passports proving travelers have been immunized, Ryan said that in the absence of universal access to the jabs, :there are serious human rights and ethical issues regarding the application of restrictions on travel on that basis.”
However, as doses become more widespread, “clearly there will need to be considerations around how public health measures . . . can be adapted,” Tedros concluded. (AI/MTVN)