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COVID-19 pandemic 'a long way from over', says WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The coronavirus, which emerged first in central China's Wuhan city in December 2019, has infected more than 136,500,400 people and killed over 2,944,500 people across the world.

April 13, 2021 / 12:01 PM IST
Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

Even though more than 780 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have now been administered globally, the pandemic is "a long way from over" but it can be brought under control in months with proven public health measures, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.

The coronavirus, which emerged first in central China's Wuhan city in December 2019, has infected more than 136,500,400 people and killed over 2,944,500 people across the world.

In January and February, the world saw six consecutive weeks of declining cases. We have now seen seven consecutive weeks of increasing cases, and four weeks of increasing deaths. Last week was the fourth-highest number of cases in a single week so far. Several countries in Asia and the Middle East have seen large increases in cases, WHO Director-General Ghebreyesus said.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, he said while more than 780 million doses of vaccine have now been administered globally, vaccines are a powerful tool but not the only tool.

Physical distancing works. Masks work. Hand hygiene works. Ventilation works. Surveillance, testing, contact tracing, isolation, supportive quarantine and compassionate care they all work to stop infections and save lives, he added.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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He voiced concern that confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures and their application are driving transmission and costing lives. Cautioning that the disease is not flu, he said young, healthy people have died from the coronavirus.

And we still don't fully understand the long-term consequences of infection for those who survive. Some people appear to be taking the approach that if they are relatively young, it doesn't matter if they get COVID-19.

Warning that the pandemic is a long way from over, Ghebreyesus said the world has many reasons for optimism.

The decline in cases and deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped.

With a concerted effort to apply public health measures alongside equitable vaccination, we could bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months, he said adding that whether we do or not comes down to the decisions and the actions that governments and individuals make every day. The choice is ours.

The top WHO official noted that currently, global manufacturing is insufficient to deliver quick, equitable vaccines and other essential health products. Tedros stressed the importance of investing in sustainable and secure domestic manufacturing capacity and national regulatory authorities, asserted that what can be done today, should be done today.

Noting that WHO and its partners have established a COVAX manufacturing taskforce, to increase supply and build a sustainable vaccine manufacturing platform, he said the UN agency's technical assistance is available in assessing the feasibility of local production and to access technology and know-how.
PTI
first published: Apr 13, 2021 11:56 am

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