WHO warns COVID-19 pandemic far from over, many people still not vaccinated

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom held a press conference today, covering the steps to be taken to end Covid-19, once and for all. Statements by Adhanom shows that the WHO knows that it’s time for collective & imminent action against the coronavirus that costed more than 3.5 million deaths and is especially threatening people with little to no vaccination, the most. World Health Assembly recently reached a consensus that the pandemic will not be over, if anyone is left behind the vaccination program.

Contrary to what some optimists say, WHO draws a moody picture. “With over 3.5 million recorded deaths from COVID-19, an estimated loss to the global economy of 22 trillion US dollars and new variants compounding explosive outbreaks, this pandemic is far from over. At the World Health Assembly this week, there has been broad consensus that ensuring equitable access to vaccines is essential for ending the COVID-19 pandemic. said Adhanom. Adhanom further called on World leaders for ensuring the vaccination of at least 10% (by September) and 30% (by the end of 2021) of every country in the World.

To pursue this objective Adhanom had messages for both state leaders and vaccine producers. WHO urges manufacturers to speed up production of vaccines, along with prioritising COVAX scheme, that is established under the WHO and provides vaccination support for vulnerable areas that are dangerously open for the severe consequences of the pandemic. Adhanom’s message for state leaders was clear, “Share doses with COVAX.” Director-General highlighted the importance of equitable access, if the international community wants to end the pandemic.

WHO calls vaccine manufacturers to join the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) to share technologies and knowledge, all in one hand. C-TAP can minimise the barriers for increasing maintenance of vaccine production due companies’s patent rights, and the pandemic can be confronted collectively, as done in HIV, TB and other outbreaks. It’s pretty much acknowledged by the WHO that individual efforts of states are not sufficient and that a collective action is needed right now.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada and Adhanom wrote an open letter to the WHO member states underlined the importance of C-TAP. The letter states that pooling knowledge, intellectual property and data to the C-TAP is the key for equitable access, and equitable access is the key to end this pandemic. But, it’s also indicated that the C-TAP is an under-utilised tool, which raises concerns about the future of the pandemic. Queada and Adhanom urges all WHO members and free-market players, mainly vaccine manufacturers to contribute more to the C-TAP.

In line with these statements, the African Continent is badly affected by Covid-19. According to the African Union (AU), there are over 4.5 million reported cases and 129 thousand deaths in the AU region. Combined with the lack of vaccination aid, the continent is threatened under the risk of increasing death toll. WHO recently acknowledged the seriousness of the situation in Africa, and stated that 20 million Astra-Zeneca Covid vaccine doses are needed in Africa, in the following six weeks. This is only the number needed for people who got their first shot, and has to get the second dose for effectiveness.  Moreover, Africa’s urgent need for vaccines is underlined by Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa with the following words, “We urgently appeal to countries that have vaccinated their high-risk groups to speed up the dose-sharing to fully protect the most vulnerable people.”

Despite there is no special reference to the African Continent in Adhanom’s press briefing, it is beyond dispute that Africa, that has a vaccinated population of only 0.46% is one of the top priorities of COVAX scheme. WHO’s message is clear, individual efforts aren’t enough to end the pandemic. A collective response, leaving nobody behind the vaccination process is the ultimate way of ending this pandemic, once and for all!

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