World Health Organization’s head of emergencies said Tuesday that if huge inequities in vaccinations and medicines are addressed quickly, the severity of the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic could be over this year.
In a discussion on vaccine inequity organized by the World Economic Forum, Dr Michael Ryan stated that “we may never end the virus” since such viruses “end up becoming a part of the ecosystem.”
However, “we may be able to end the public health emergency this year if we do the things that we’ve been discussing,” he said.
COVID-19 vaccination disparities between rich and poor countries have been called a catastrophic moral failure by WHO. In lower-income countries, fewer than 10% of the population has received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Covid-19 virus, which so far has killed more than 5.5 million people worldwide, will continue to cause tragedy if vaccines and other tools are not shared fairly.
“What we need to do is get disease incidence as low as possible through the vaccination of the population, so nobody has to die,” Ryan said. “It’s the death that’s the problem.” It’s also hospitalizations. Rather than the virus, it is our social, economic, and political systems that are disrupted.”
Covid-19 an Endemic
In addition, Ryan spoke about the growing debate over whether COVID-19 should be called an endemic, a label some countries like Spain have called for to help cope with the virus, or still a pandemic, which requires intense measures to curb its spread.
In our inner cities, there is endemic violence, endemic malaria, and endemic HIV.”. Endémic does not mean positive. It just means it won’t go away.
Public health officials warn that it is unlikely COVID-19 will be eradicated and that it will continue to kill people even after it becomes endemic but at much lower levels.
The executive director of Oxfam International’s anti-poverty program, Gabriela Bucher, noted the “enormous urgency” of a fairer distribution of vaccines and the need for large-scale production. A few companies and shareholders are hoarding resources to fight the pandemic, she said.
Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, decried the collapse of global solidarity and cooperation over the last two years, saying it was “totally unacceptable” how few Africans have received vaccines. His agency estimates that only 10% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people are fully vaccinated.
According to studies, 80% of Africans would be willing to get shots if vaccines were available. He also sought to dispel the belief that vaccine hesitancy is widespread in Africa.
Living with the coronavirus
The remarks were made on day two of the online alternative to the annual World Economic Forum meeting, which was postponed due to pandemic concerns.
Leaders from around the world spoke at the event, including Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. According to him, his country, which began a nationwide vaccination campaign quickly, is striving to be “at the forefront of medicines and vaccines” against COVID-19.
According to Israel’s Health Ministry, 62% of people there are fully vaccinated, including booster shots.
Bennett stated, “We want to be the first in the world to find out how vaccines and the new variants interact.”
Vaccination levels are high in Japan because society places a high value on protecting the elderly and vulnerable, according to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Until the end of February, he plans to maintain stringent border controls.
In his remarks, he said he was trying to balance restrictions with keeping the economy open, however, a “zero-COVID policy against the omicron variant is not possible nor appropriate.”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, told a separate press briefing Tuesday that 18 million new cases of COVID-19 have been reported last week.
The Associated Press