United Nations
United Nations 16 Nov 2020

Vaccines Encouraging but No time for Complacency: Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID - 19): WHO


(Excerpts) While news about COVID-19 vaccines are "encouraging," World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, today (16 Nov) said "this is not the time for complacency."

Dr Tedros said the WHO remains "cautiously optimistic about the potential for new tools to start to arrive in the coming months," but "right now, we are extremely concerned by the surge in cases we're seeing in some countries," particularly in Europe and the Americas, where "health workers and health systems are being pushed to the breaking point."

The Director-General stressed that "this is a dangerous virus, which can attack every system in the body," adding that "those countries that are letting the virus run unchecked are playing with fire."

Dr Tedros said, "there is no excuse for inaction" and "a laissez-faire attitude to the virus - not using the full range of tools available - leads to death, suffering and hurts livelihoods and economies."

He said "it's not a choice between lives or livelihoods. The quickest way to open up economies is to defeat the virus."

WHO's Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said, "one very encouraging thing is to see that at least with the two mRNA vaccine results that we've heard, Pfizer and Moderna, that we seem to be achieving high efficacy. But there are many, many questions still remaining about the duration of protection, the impact on severe disease, the impact on different sub-populations, especially the elderly, as well as the adverse events, beyond a certain period of time. So, we also hope that the clinical trials will continue to collect data because that's really going to be important for us to know about in the long-term. And we're looking forward to getting more results in the coming weeks from the other vaccine trials, that are currently in progress."

Assistant Director-General Dr Mariângela Simão said, "there are challenges in the implementation, but we are also aiming through the COVAX Facility in ensuring that countries will have a chance, an opportunity to have access to the vaccines they prefer in due time, and that we don't have a long lagging period between these vaccines reaching developing countries and developed countries."

For her part, WHO's Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, Dr Katherine O'Brien, said, "getting to vaccine efficacy is like building base camp at Everest. But the climb to the peak is really about delivering the vaccines. And this cannot be overemphasized, that the people who need to receive these vaccines are the ones who really are the focus."

WHO's COVID-19 Technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said, "there have been 65 cases" associated with WHO headquarters staff, out of which "36 have had access to the premises."

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It's still far too early to offer a timetable for easing the Covid restrictions. That's the warning from the health secretary for England Matt Hancock.

He said the pressure on the NHS was just too great, with the number of patients being admitted to hospital almost double that at the peak of the pandemic last year.

A group of Conservative MPs is demanding that restrictions be relaxed and schools reopened as soon as the most vulnerable people have had their vaccinations.

But Public Health England has warned that death rates and hospitalisations still need to fall much further before any easing of the current restrictions.

Boris Johnson said parents would be told "as soon as possible" when schools can re-open. The Prime Minister said he understood why people wanted a timetable but he didn't want to lift restrictions while the infection rate was "still very high".

Huw Edwards presents BBC News at Ten reporting by political editor Laura Kuenssberg and education editor Branwen Jeffreys.
"COVID-19 has had a profound effect on people living with HIV," said the head of the WHO Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus at the press briefing in Geneva on Monday, adding that the increased risk from COVID-19 for people living with HIV is "compounded by disruptions in treatment."

"In a WHO survey of 127 countries earlier this year, more than a quarter reported partial disruption to antiretroviral treatment for people with HIV," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO. "However, with support from WHO and the work of health and community workers, the number of countries reporting disruptions in HIV services has declined by almost 75 percent since June."

"What we've seen in at least HIV services is that early on, we saw some dipping in terms of the number of people getting tested, the number of people getting put onto treatment, and that can have effects over the long-term of increased deaths, increased new infections. But we've seen over since June, up until November, sort of a rebound whereas the cases are lower, systems have been able to regroup and put more people back onto therapy, shore up their ARV stocks, make sure that they have adequate supplies. ensure that the healthcare workers are doing multiple tests," said Dr Meg Doherty, Director of Global HIV, Hepatitis, STIs Programme.

With the approaching holiday season, Dr Tedros warned "this is no time for complacency."

"We all want to be together with the people we love during festive periods," he said. "But being with family and friends is not worth putting them or yourself at risk. We all need to consider whose life we might be gambling with in the decisions we make."

Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme said "WHO does not "hold a position on whether something should be canceled or not canceled because the circumstances change in each and every jurisdiction. So, we would advise that all countries look at their ski season and other reasons for mass gatherings."
Moncef Slaoui, the head of the US government's effort to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, says that nothing has gone wrong with the US coronavirus rollout despite saying he expected that 20 million Americans would be immunized by the end of 2020.

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