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03rd Mar 2021

It’s “unrealistic and premature” to think the pandemic will end this year, says WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the pandemic ending this year is 'unrealistic'

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the pandemic ending this year is ‘unrealistic’.

The WHO’s executive director of emergencies, Dr Michael Ryan, has described hopes of the pandemic ending this year as “premature,” and described the virus as “very much in control.” 

Speaking in Geneva yesterday, Ryan stressed that suppressing transmission of the virus should be the key focus at present.

“If vaccines begin to impact not only on death and not only on hospitalisation, but have a significant impact on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe we will accelerate towards controlling this pandemic,” said Ryan.

Although he did offer some hope, if people are “smart.” 

“If we are smart, we can finish with hospitalisations and deaths and the tragedy associated with the pandemic [by the end of the year],” he said.

Hospital workers in PPE lifting Covid patient into an ambulance

Ryan also expressed his disappointment that richer countries are vaccinating younger adults before health workers and more vulnerable people in other countries.

Director General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, echoed Ryan’s concerns about vaccine inequality. 

“It’s regrettable that some countries continue to prioritise vaccinating younger, healthier adults at lower risk of disease in their own populations ahead of health workers and older people elsewhere,” he said. 

“Countries are not in a race with each other, this is a common race against the virus. 

“We’re not asking countries to put their own people at risk – we’re asking countries to be part of a global effort to suppress the virus everywhere.”

Vaccine inequality among between richer and poorer nations is a growing concern. 

A woman being vaccinated by a health care worker

Data from The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that vaccine coverage in developing countries will not be widespread until early 2023, with the wealthiest countries achieving widespread coverage by late 2021. 

And the effect on mortality is not the only cause for concern.

The Lancet medical journal have said “billions of individuals around the world might not have access to Covid-19 vaccines in 2021, which could prolong the pandemic and raise the risk of further mutations of the virus emerging, possibly undermining the efficacy of existing vaccines.”