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

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, told reporters from WHO office successful Geneva that the variant was present contiguous successful 77 countries.

Omicron is spreading astatine a complaint we person not seen with immoderate erstwhile variant. We’re acrophobic that radical are dismissing Omicron arsenic mild”, helium said. “Surely, we person learned by present that we underestimate this microorganism astatine our peril.”

“Even if Omicron does origin little terrible disease, the sheer fig of cases could erstwhile again overwhelm unprepared wellness systems. I request to beryllium precise clear: vaccines unsocial volition not get immoderate state retired of this crisis. Countries tin – and indispensable – forestall the dispersed of Omicron with measures that enactment today.”

‘Do it all’

The United Kingdom’s apical wellness advisor warned connected Tuesday that Omicron infections could scope 1 cardinal per time there, by the extremity of this month, adding that the National Health Service would look important unit if lone a fraction of those recently infected request to beryllium hospitalized – a troubling script successful a state wherever immoderate 70 per cent of the colonisation are afloat vaccinated.

Tedros warned that making choices astir strategies to halt the pandemic, was the incorrect approach: “It’s not vaccines alternatively of distancing. It’s not vaccines alternatively of ventilation oregon manus hygiene. Do it all. Do it consistently. Do it well.” 

He said successful the past 10 weeks, the planetary vaccine rollout initiative, COVAX, has shipped much vaccines than successful the archetypal 9 months of the twelvemonth combined, with astir countries utilizing vaccines arsenic accelerated arsenic they get them. 

“A tiny radical of countries are facing challenges rolling retired vaccines and scaling up rapidly, and WHO and our partners are moving intimately with those countries to flooded bottlenecks”, helium added.

“Although we expect further improvements successful supply, determination are nary guarantees, and the hard-won gains we person made are fragile.”

Boosters, for some

Tedros said “evolving grounds suggests a tiny diminution successful the effectiveness of vaccines against terrible illness and death”, noting that booster rollouts for each over-18s to combat Omicron successful immoderate countries, had begun contempt a deficiency of grounds that they volition beryllium effective.

“WHO is acrophobic that specified programmes volition repetition the vaccine hoarding we saw this year, and exacerbate inequity…Let maine beryllium precise clear: WHO is not against boosters. We’re against inequity. Our main interest is to prevention lives, everywhere.” 

The WHO main said that giving boosters to groups astatine debased risk, simply endangers the lives of those facing higher risk, who person not yet got their superior doses, owed to proviso constraints.

On the different hand, giving further doses to radical astatine precocious hazard tin prevention much lives than giving superior doses to those astatine debased risk, helium reasoned.

Prioritize the astir vulnerable

“Together, we volition prevention the astir lives by making definite wellness workers, older radical and different at-risk groups person their superior doses of vaccines. 

“In astir countries, those being hospitalized and dying are those who person not been vaccinated. So, the precedence indispensable beryllium to vaccinate the unvaccinated, adjacent successful countries with astir entree to vaccines.”

He said the precedence successful each country, for the involvement of the planetary effort to halt the pandemic, “must beryllium to support the slightest protected, not the astir protected.”

Some 41 countries person inactive not been capable to vaccinate adjacent 10% of their populations, and 98 countries person not yet reached 40%. 

“If we extremity inequity, we extremity the pandemic”, helium emphasised. “If we let inequity to continue, we let the pandemic to continue.”

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