The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is far from over despite high vaccination rates in some countries. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued the warning during a May 17 news conference. “The pandemic is a long way far from over. It will not be over anywhere until it’s over anywhere,” he said.
The head of the global health body acknowledged the “very concerning” COVID-19 situation in some countries worldwide. “Even some places that have previously done very well at containing COVID-19 are seeing dramatic increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” Tedros said. He also elaborated on the idea of a “huge disconnect” during the news conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. “In some countries with the highest vaccination rates, there appears to be a mindset that the pandemic is over – while others are experiencing huge waves of infection,” the director-general commented.
He also referenced the current wave of COVID-19 infections in India that crippled the South Asian nation’s hospital system. Tedros mentioned during the briefing: “New variants of concern, fragile health systems, reduced implementation of public health measures and supply shortages of oxygen, dexamethasone and vaccines are all compounding the current situation.”
The WHO director-general continued that the organization has been responding to the surge of COVID-19 infections in India and other places. But Tedros noted that the WHO needs immediate funding due to “high demand.” He continued that any financial support will be used to sustain the global health body’s technical and operational support – most especially in countries hard-hit by the current COVID-19 wave.
In the same vein, Tedros exhorted people to adhere to public health measures. The WHO head touted maintaining physical distance from others, wearing face masks and preventing large gatherings as solutions to the rise in COVID-19 cases. He also emphasized the importance of genetic sequencing even when cases have dwindled in order to track Wuhan coronavirus variants of concern.
Tedros’s remarks during the news conference came days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance. According to the public health agency, fully vaccinated Americans can opt not to wear masks both indoors and outdoors.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky elaborated on the new guidance. She remarked on May 13: “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities … without wearing a mask or physical distancing.” The CDC director added that fully vaccinated people “can start doing things … [they] stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
However, Walensky remarked that unvaccinated people should still continue wearing face coverings. This is because they are still at risk of contracting or suffering from COVID-19. She also advised people with compromised immune systems to speak with their doctor before going maskless. (Related: ‘Woke’ corporations ignore CDC; will still require customers to wear masks.)
Based on CDC guidelines, a huge amount of the world’s population would have to be vaccinated in order for masks to be removed. But shortages in vaccine supplies only contributed to the difficulty. Tedros pointed out the matter during the May 17 press briefing.
The WHO director general said: “The surge in cases has compromised global vaccine supply and there is already a shortfall of 190 million doses to COVAX [COVID-19 Vaccine Access Initiative] by the end of June.” COVAX enables poorer countries to obtain Wuhan coronavirus vaccine doses – and has delivered 65 million doses to 124 nations worldwide. However, the initiative depends on countries and manufacturers honoring their commitments.
The WHO head also took the opportunity to call on different vaccine makers to make more shots available to COVAX. “We need doses right now and call on [vaccine manufacturers] to bring forward deliveries as soon as possible,” he commented.
Tedros praised AstraZeneca for “steadily increasing the speed and volume of its deliveries.” He also said that Johnson & Johnson and COVAX are working on a deal for doses of its one-shot COVID-19 vaccine. While J&J is set to provide the doses in the second half of the year, it is still unknown as of writing when the doses will arrive.
Pfizer has also committed to providing 40 million vaccine doses to COVAX for 2021 – with the majority to arrive at the second half of the year. Moderna also committed 500 million doses with COVAX, but majority of the doses was set to arrive at 2022. Tedros called on Moderna to deliver “hundreds of millions” of these doses sooner. (Related: WHO wants billions more for Covid-19 mass vaccination scheme.)
Aside from drug companies, the WHO director general also exhorted the Serum Institute of India to catch up on the doses it earlier committed to COVAX. He furthermore called other pharmaceutical firms to tie up with companies willing to lend their facilities in the production of more COVID-19 vaccine doses.
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