COVID-19: With booster doses, testing and preparation, we can end the pandemic this year

COVID-19: With booster doses, testing and preparation, we can end the pandemic this year

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. The virus continues to cause significant loss of lives and livelihoodsthus hampering the global economic recovery.

However, the director of the Health Organization (WHO) said this Friday that the world has never been in a better position to end COVID-19 as a global health emergency.

“The number of reported weekly deaths is approaching the lowest since the pandemic began and two-thirds of the world's population are vaccinatedincluding 75% of health workers and older people,” Tedros Adhamnon Ghebreyesus highlighted at an event held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly high-level debate.

The conclave has the objective of evaluating the advances in vaccines, diagnoses and treatments against COVID-19, identifying priority areas for accelerate equitable access to these treatments and mobilize political support to end the pandemic this year.

Disparities imply risks for all

The head of the WHO warned that the encouraging numbers hide a series of disparities that put all people at risk and mentioned, for example, that in low-income countries only 19% of the population is vaccinatedin contrast to 75% immunization in high-income nations.

In addition, he reported that a new study by specialists from the ACT Accelerator revealed that the testing rate worldwide has fallen and that access to new antivirals in most low- and middle-income countries is practically non-existent.

“These inequalities are not only a danger to those they directly affect; They are a risk to everyone. That's why it's It is essential to correct them if we really want to end the pandemic”, he warned.

UNICEF/Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi

A health worker brings COVID-19 vaccines donated by COVAX to a health center in Nepal.

we have the tools

The world has the tools to end the acute phase of the epidemic, “however, we will only succeed if we vaccinate all health workers and older people, maintain testing and expanding access to effective antivirals”, he pointed.

Tedros explained that the coronavirus will not go awaybut that countries will be able to transition to control it along with other respiratory diseases.

The General secretary of the UN, the event's first speaker underlined the lack of preparation of health systems in the event of an emergencyand recalled that although no country escaped the catastrophe, low- and middle-income nations suffered the worst impact.

Antonio Guterres said that the world has progressed since then and noted that currently only ten countries, most of them experiencing humanitarian crises, have vaccination coverage below 10%.

Added to the vaccines are the new oral antiviral drugs that, combined with the tests, offer a clear path to prevent deaths among the most vulnerable. “But they must be available to everyone,” Guterres added.

He also referred that the countries are increasingly integrating measures of COVID-19 in routine health services and programs.

“The lessons from these successes are clear. The virus is treatable. We can save lives and we can control the virus, even among high-risk populations. (…) If we could combine these tools with greater ambition among world leaders, we could end the pandemic this year. But that requires close three big gaps”, he asserted.

The three gaps that Guterres alluded to are: booster doses, testing and preparation for possible emergencies.

booster dose

Both the Secretary-General and the director of the WHO emphasized the urgency to give more booster doseespecially among high-risk population groups.

Guterres lamented that the coverage of these immunizations remains low globally, although he highlighted the worst situation in low-income countries, where only 35% of health workers and 31% of the elderly are vaccinated and have received boosters.

Our top priority continues to be immunizations, and this includes counter disinformation and fake news about immunization and the virus, he noted.


Government COVID-19 testing campaign in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa (File photo).

IMF/James Oatway

Government COVID-19 testing campaign in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa (File photo).

Tests

The tests are diminishing everywhere, which exposes the world to possible new variants of the virus.

On the other hand, if tests are not performed, medicines and treatments that can save lives cannot be administered.

Tedros urged all countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencingas well as the availability of antivirals everywhere.

Preparation

Guterres and Tedros agreed on the imperative need to develop preparedness strategies for future contingencies.

“Now is the time to strengthen our defense against future threats by investing in early warning systems, local manufacturing and diagnostic capabilities, and a well-paid and well-stocked health workforce. We must never again be caught so unprepared,” the Secretary General pointed out.

The goal is near, but we are not there yet…

Dr. Tedros indicated that although the world has not arrived, the goal is in sight, and called on do not give up the battleequating the point at which progress against the virus is with a sports career.

“A marathon runner doesn't stop when the finish line is in sight; he runs faster, with all the energy he has left,” he said.

The health agency's CEO added that now is the time for all of us to run stronger and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all the hard work.

In the same vein, António Guterres called for progress in closing the deficits.

“It's time to build political momentum to finish the job regarding COVID-19. let's do it Let's end this pandemic, once and for all,” he concluded.


 A twelve-year-old boy sits in an empty classroom at a school that was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNICEF/Zahara Abdul

A twelve-year-old boy sits in an empty classroom at a school that was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Children, among the most affected

Also present at the discussions was the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), who assured that although children are not the face of the pandemic, are among its main victims.

“The secondary impacts of the pandemic on the health, education and well-being of children have been devastating”, detailed Omar Abdi, citing the interruption in routine vaccinations, one of the great effects on children.

According to the WHO and UNICEF, in 2021 alone, 25 million children did not receive the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine, the largest and most sustained drop in routine childhood immunization rates in a generation, which could end 30 years of progress If it doesn't go back to normal.

Our efforts to end the pandemic do not have to come at the expense of children. In fact, many of the things that will strengthen our response to the pandemic, such as building stronger primary health systems and expanding access to basic health care and immunization, also help ensure better child health and help prepare for future crises”, Abdi added.

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