June 27, 2022


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COVID-19: Don’t underestimate Omicron, WHO chief warns

The Omicron variant is “most likely” now current in a lot of the world’s nations and it could be a mistake to dismiss the COVID-19 pressure as “gentle”, stated the head of the UN well being company (WHO) on Tuesday.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-Basic of the World Well being Group, informed reporters from WHO headquarters in Geneva that the variant was now current in 77 nations.

Omicron is spreading at a charge we have now not seen with any earlier variant. We’re involved that individuals are dismissing Omicron as gentle”, he stated. “Absolutely, we have now realized by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril.”

“Even when Omicron does trigger much less extreme illness, the sheer variety of instances may as soon as once more overwhelm unprepared well being techniques. I have to be very clear: vaccines alone won’t get any nation out of this disaster. Nations can – and should – forestall the unfold of Omicron with measures that work at this time.”

‘Do all of it’

The UK’s high well being adviser warned on Tuesday that Omicron infections may attain a million per day there, by the top of this month, including that the Nationwide Well being Service would face important stress if solely a fraction of these newly contaminated have to be hospitalized – a troubling state of affairs in a rustic the place some 70 per cent of the inhabitants are totally vaccinated.

Tedros warned that making selections about methods to halt the pandemic, was the incorrect strategy: “It’s not vaccines as an alternative of distancing. It’s not vaccines as an alternative of air flow or hand hygiene. Do all of it. Do it constantly. Do it effectively.” 

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He stated prior to now 10 weeks, the worldwide vaccine rollout initiative, COVAX, has shipped extra vaccines than within the first 9 months of the yr mixed, with most nations utilizing vaccines as quick as they get them. 

“A small group of nations are going through challenges rolling out vaccines and scaling up quickly, and WHO and our companions are working carefully with these nations to beat bottlenecks”, he added.

“Though we anticipate additional enhancements in provide, there are not any ensures, and the hard-won beneficial properties we have now made are fragile.”

Boosters, for some

Tedros stated “evolving proof suggests a small decline within the effectiveness of vaccines towards extreme illness and dying”, noting that booster rollouts for all over-18s to battle Omicron in some nations, had begun regardless of a scarcity of proof that they are going to be efficient.

“WHO is worried that such programmes will repeat the vaccine hoarding we noticed this yr, and exacerbate inequity…Let me be very clear: WHO shouldn’t be towards boosters. We’re towards inequity. Our primary concern is to save lots of lives, in all places.” 

The WHO chief stated that giving boosters to teams at low danger, merely endangers the lives of these going through larger danger, who haven’t but acquired their major doses, resulting from provide constraints.

However, giving extra doses to individuals at excessive danger can save extra lives than giving major doses to these at low danger, he reasoned.

Prioritize probably the most susceptible

“Collectively, we are going to save probably the most lives by ensuring well being employees, older individuals and different at-risk teams obtain their major doses of vaccines. 

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“In most nations, these being hospitalized and dying are those that haven’t been vaccinated. So, the precedence should be to vaccinate the unvaccinated, even in nations with most entry to vaccines.”

He stated the precedence in each nation, for the sake of the worldwide effort to halt the pandemic, “should be to guard the least protected, not probably the most protected.”

Some 41 nations have nonetheless not been capable of vaccinate even 10% of their populations, and 98 nations haven’t but reached 40%. 

“If we finish inequity, we finish the pandemic”, he emphasised. “If we enable inequity to proceed, we enable the pandemic to proceed.”