THE World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says making vaccines available to a wider population increases chances of defeating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing Media Briefing, Dr Tedros said last week, the lowest number of COVID-19 deaths was recorded since the early days of the pandemic. However, emerging variants continue to threaten efforts to eradicate the virus.
Some countries are still witnessing serious spikes in cases, which is putting pressure on hospitals. And our ability to monitor trends is compromised as testing has significantly reduced. This week, the COVID-19 IHR Emergency Committee met and unanimously agreed that the pandemic remains a public health emergency. I appreciated their advice and agree that far from being the time to drop our guard, this is the moment to work even harder to save lives.
“Specifically this means investing so that COVID-19 tools are equitably distributed and we simultaneously strengthen health systems as outlined in the 2022 WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. Bridging the vaccine equity gap is the best way to boost population immunity and insulate against future waves. But, it’s not just vaccines,” said Dr Tedros.
He added that WHO has over the years continued to update its clinical management of COVID-19 guidelines and hone its recommendations based on the latest science where treatments including oxygen, corticosteroids and antivirals are helping to further break the link between COVID-19 infection and death.
“Diagnostics are also improving and becoming more accessible. However, just as I said last year that trickle down vaccination is not an effective strategy for fighting a deadly respiratory virus; trickle-down treatment and testing are similarly reckless. Diagnosing at-risk patients early enough for new antivirals to be effective is essential and should be available to everyone, everywhere. In addition, higher testing and sequencing rates will be vital for tracing existing and identifying new variants as they emerge.”
He said WHO scientists continue to work with thousands of experts around the world to track and monitor the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“At present there are a number of Omicron sub-lineages we’re following closely, including BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5 and another recombinant detected, made up of BA.1 and BA.2. This virus has over time become more transmissible and it remains deadly especially for the unprotected and unvaccinated that don’t have access to health care and antivirals. The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated and boosted when recommended. Continue wearing masks – especially in crowded indoor spaces. And for the indoors, keep the air fresh by opening windows and doors, and invest in good ventilation.”