Vaccines ‘do not equal zero Covid’, many places seeing high transmission of virus, warns WHO

Now that the vaccinations are close, World Health Organization officials on Friday warned governments and citizens not to drop their guard over the coronavirus pandemic, adding that healthcare systems could still buckle under pressure.

WHO’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan cautioned on Friday against complacency in the wake of vaccine roll-out, saying that although they were a major part of the battle against Covid-19, vaccines would not on their own end the pandemic.

“Vaccines do not equal zero COVID,” he said, as reported by AFP.

Ryan said some countries could risk a “blow up” in cases, and a yo-yoing of the pandemic if they do not ustain very strong control measures for some time into the future.

“We are in a pivotal moment in some countries. There are health systems in some countries at the point of collapse,” he said, without referring to specific countries.

“Vaccines and vaccination will add a major, major, powerful tool to the tool kit that we have. But by themselves, they will not do the job,” Ryan told a virtual news conference.

Global coronavirus infections passed 65 million on Friday.

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1.5 million people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

‘Coronavirus pandemic far from over’

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Progress on vaccines gives us all a lift and we can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, WHO is concerned that there is a growing perception that the Covid-19 pandemic is over,”

Tedros said the pandemic still had a long way to run and that decisions made by citizens and governments would determine its course in the short run and when the pandemic would ultimately end.

“We know it’s been a hard year and people are tired, but in hospitals that are running at or over capacity it’s the hardest it can possibly be,” Reuters quoted Tedros as saying.

‘Vaccine will not be with everyone early next year’

As per a report in AFP, Ryan also said, “I have seen vaccines transform the world and change the course of epidemics, and I fully expect that these vaccines and the ones that are to come will do that,”

But he warned that people needed to recognise that the vaccine “will not be with everyone early next year”, reported AFP.

Health workers, the elderly and people with underlying conditions will get priority — a choice that “will take a lot of the sorrow out of this pandemic. But it will not, by itself, end transmission,” said Ryan.

Poor could be ‘trampled’ in vaccine push, warns WHO

Speaking at a virtual UN summit on the pandemic, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Let me be clear. We simply cannot accept a world in which the poor and marginalized are trampled by the rich and powerful in the stampede for vaccines. This is a global crisis and the solutions must be shared equitably as global public goods. Not as private commodities that widen inequalities and become yet another reason some people are left behind”.

As per a report in AFP, he also warned that the world has plenty of other challenges, saying: “There is no vaccine for poverty, no vaccine for hunger. There is no vaccine for inequality. There is no vaccine for climate change.”

Meanwhile, Tedros, an Ethiopian doctor and diplomat, said he was happy to be vaccinated on camera to help promote public confidence, but would not jump the queue to do so. “I would be happy to do it” but “I have to make sure it’s my turn”, AFP quoted him as saying.

(With inputs from AFP, Reuters)

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