We shouldn’t need another wake-up call, we should all be wide awake to the threat of this virus, said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
GENEVA, Nov 29 (The CINNECT) - Cautioning the nations that the emergence of Omicron virus variant is a reminder that COVID is not done with us, the World Health Organisation has said that the longer vaccine inequity persists, the more opportunity this virus has to spread and evolve in ways we cannot predict nor prevent.
“We shouldn’t need another wake-up call, we should all be wide awake to the threat of this virus,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his opening remarks at the Special Session of the World Health Assembly
“Although many of us might think we are done with COVID-19, it is not done with us,” he said and remarked: “We are living through a cycle of panic and neglect. Hard-won gains could vanish in an instant.”
The world’s most immediate task, therefore, is to end this pandemic, Dr Tedors said and pointed out “indeed, our ability to end this pandemic is a test of our collective ability to prevent and respond effectively to future pandemics, because the same principles apply”.
He expressed the alarm that more than 80% of the world’s vaccines have gone to G20 countries; low-income countries, most of them in Africa, have received just 0.6% of all vaccines.
“We understand and support every government’s responsibility to protect its own people. It’s natural. But vaccine equity is not charity; it’s in every country’s best interests.” He said and stressed that “No country can vaccinate its way out of the pandemic alone.”
Dr Tedros called upon the member States to support the WHO targets to vaccinate 40% of the population of every country by the end of this year, and 70% by the middle of next year. As many as 103 countries still have not reached the 40% target, and more than half of them are at risk of missing it by the end of the year, mainly because they cannot access the vaccines they need, and most of them in Africa, he said.
Even as some countries are now beginning to vaccinate groups at very low risk of severe disease, or to give boosters to healthy adults, just one in four health workers in Africa has been vaccinated. This is unacceptable, Dr Tedros said.
Ending this pandemic is not about vaccines OR, it’s about vaccines AND.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, Dr Tedros recalled, “our forebears rose above themselves to found the United Nations and this World Health Organization.”
“Now is our moment to rise above this pandemic; To rise above the impulses of isolationism; To rise above rivalry, suspicion and mistrust; To rise above the near-sightedness of election cycles and media cycles; To build on the legacy from which we have all benefited, and to leave a new legacy for the generations who will follow.”
Let it be said, decades from now when each of us is nothing more than photographs and memories, that we left the world a healthier, safer, fairer place than we found it, Dr Tedros added.
“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world… There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
Those words were written by the French writer Albert Camus in his classic novel La Peste – The Plague – in 1947.
Seventy-four years later, they have a disturbing prescience.
Outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics are a fact of nature, and a recurring feature of recorded history, from the Plague of Athens in 430 BCE, to the Black Death, the 1918 influenza pandemic, and now COVID-19.
But that does not mean we are helpless to prevent them, prepare for them or mitigate their impact.
We are not prisoners of fate or nature.
More than any humans in history, we have the ability to anticipate pandemics, to prepare for them, to unravel the genetics of pathogens, to detect them at their earliest stages, to prevent them spiralling into global disasters, and to respond when they do.