WHO DG explains what helped the virus to circulate unchecked and mutate
GENEVA, Dec 30 (The COINNECT) - With nearly half of the world missing the target of vaccinating 40% of their population, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed concern at Omicron leading to a tsunami of cases.
Stating that 40% was doable, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “It’s not only a moral shame, it cost lives and provided the virus with opportunities to circulate unchecked and mutate.”
Addressing the global media last night (IST) through an online meet, Dr Tedros said as many as 92 WHO member States, out of 194, missed the 40% target. This is due to a combination of limited supply going to low-income countries for most of the year and then subsequent vaccines arriving close to expiry and without key parts - like the syringes!
And, in the case of about 20 countries, supply chain and distribution issues are also impacting rollouts, he lamented.
The unvaccinated are many times more at risk of dying from either variant, he said.
“I am highly concerned that Omicron being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta - is leading to a tsunami of cases,” Dr Tedros said.
This virus will continue to evolve and threaten our health systems if we don’t improve the collective response, he said pointed out, “Right now, Delta and Omicron are twin threats that are driving up cases to record numbers, which again is leading to spikes in hospitalisations and deaths”.
This is and will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers and health systems on the brink of collapse and again disrupting lives and livelihoods, he said. A large number of health workers are getting sick themselves putting pressure on the system
Omicron is moving so quickly, in addition to vaccination, public health social measures are also needed to stem the wave of infection, protect health workers and systems, open up societies and keep children in school, he said.
Bottom-up microplanning with strong community engagement and mobile vaccination teams, which have been highly effective in ridding most of the world of polio, are another way to get vaccines to the hard-to-reach.
WHO will support countries as they look to improve access to COVID-19 tools and catch up with routine immunisation.
Mental health must also be treated as a core element of our response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the G7 and G20 this year, Dr Tedros had challenged leaders to ensure that by the end of this year, countries have vaccinated 40% of their populations and 70% by the middle of 2022.
Now, in the year ahead, he for leaders of government and industry to walk the talk on vaccine equity both by ensuring consistent supply and helping to get vaccinations actually into people.
Vaccine supply, for now at least, is improving although the emphasis on boosters in rich countries could cause low-income countries to go short again.
“I call on leaders of rich countries and manufacturers to learn the lessons of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and now Omicron and work together to reach the 70% vaccination coverage,” Dr Tedros said in his New Year message.