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    A Third of the World Remains Totally Unvaccinated against COVID-19, says WHO

    HealthCOVID-19A Third of the World Remains Totally Unvaccinated against...
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    A Third of the World Remains Totally Unvaccinated against COVID-19, says WHO

    In the best-case scenario, less severe variants emerge and boosters or new formulations of vaccines won’t be necessary. But, in the worst-case scenario, a more virulent and highly transmissible variant could emerge, sooner or later, the WHo chief said.

    One of every three people in the world has yet to receive a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, said the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.

    “This is not acceptable to me, and it should not be acceptable to anyone”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “If the world’s rich are enjoying the benefits of high vaccine coverage, why shouldn’t the world’s poor? Are some lives worth more than others?

    “We have all the tools we need to bring this pandemic under control: we can prevent transmission with masks, distancing, hand hygiene and ventilation; and we can save lives by ensuring everyone has access to tests, treatments and vaccines”.

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    Equitable vaccination remains the single most powerful tool at the world’s disposal, to save lives, Tedros reminded.

    Striving to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population of every country remains essential for bringing the pandemic under control, with priority given to health workers, older people and other at-risk groups.

    He announced that to tackle future threats on a par with the virus that has now taken well over six million lives, and infected more than 483 million people, he said WHO was launching a new strategy to scale up genomic surveillance, for deadly pathogens that had “epidemic and pandemic potential”.

    He also unveiled the updated Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan for COVID-19.

    “This is our third strategic plan for COVID-19, and it could and should be our last”, he said, laying out three possible scenarios for how the pandemic could evolve this year.

    COVID-19 end game?

    The most likely scenario is that the virus continues to evolve, but the severity of disease it causes reduces over time as immunity increases due to vaccination and infection, he stated.

    “Periodic spikes in cases and deaths may occur as immunity wanes, which may require periodic boosting for vulnerable populations. In the best-case scenario, we may see less severe variants emerge, and boosters or new formulations of vaccines won’t be necessary.”

    But, in the worst-case scenario, a more virulent and highly transmissible variant could emerge, sooner or later, and against this new threat, people’s protection against severe disease and death, from prior vaccination or infection, “will wane rapidly”, Tedros warned.

    Addressing this situation would require significantly altering the current vaccines and making sure they get to the people who are most vulnerable to severe disease, he said.

    The UN health agency chief laid out five strategic areas governments need to focus on, and invest in surveillance and public health intelligence and laboratories infrastructure. Besides, there is a need for more government attention to vaccination, public health and social measures and engaged communities.

    The WHO has also stressed on government provisions for clinical care for COVID-19 and resilient health systems.

    Research and development, the WHO says, will help equitable access to tools and supplies. This will be even more necessary, bearing in mind response transitions from emergency mode to long-term respiratory disease management.

     

    Image: Vinay Panjwani / UNICEF

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