Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu said that the coronavirus crisis could end this year – but warned against “vaccine hoarding” by rich nations which increases the risk of new variants
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This could be the year the world defeats the Covid pandemic, the head of the World Health Organisation says – but only if rich countries share their vaccines.
In a 2022 New Year message, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu struck a hopeful note as the coronavirus crisis goes into its third year.
He said he was “confident” this will be the year the pandemic ends, but warned against “narrow nationalism and vaccine hoarding”.
Dr Tedros said that vaccine inequality had “created the ideal conditions for the emergence of the Omicron variant”.
He said: “And the longer inequity continues, the higher the risks of this virus evolving in ways we can’t prevent or predict.”
Latest data shows that many parts of the world are lagging behind – with less than one per cent of the population in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Haiti fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.
By comparison the figure is estimated at more than 70 per cent in high income countries.
Dr Tedros said tackling this inequality will be the key to ending the global nightmare and bringing life back to normal.
In his statement, he said: “If we end inequity, we end the pandemic.
“Through the ACT-Accelerator, which includes COVAX, WHO and our partners are helping to make vaccines, tests and treatments accessible to people who need them, all over the world.
“As we enter the third year of this pandemic, I’m confident that this will be the year we end it – but only if we do it together.”
He said millions of lives have been saved by vaccines, adding that medics now have new drugs to prevent and treat Covid-19.
Eighty per cent of patients in hospital with the Omicron Covid variant have not had their booster jab, latest figures show.
Of 815 hospitalised people with the mutant strain, 608 had not had a third vaccine jab, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.
It comes as new data shows that booster vaccines slash the risk of hospitalisation with Omicron by up to 88 per cent.
Hospitalisations are beginning to rise, with a 50 per cent increase recorded in a week.
Yesterday the Department of Health said that nearly 10,000 people with coronavirus had been admitted in the UK in the previous week, with 1,915 on December 27 alone.
However experts have warned about drawing conclusions from the figures, with some infections detected when people seek medical care for other issues.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Fortunately we have some of the strongest defences this country has ever had during this pandemic, that includes our huge vaccination programme, our juggernaut of a testing system and also our world-leading antivirals programme.”
The cabinet member encouraged “more people to come forward” to join the 75 per cent of eligible adults in England who have received a booster vaccination.
He added: “We’ve got new data from UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) that suggests you are eight times more likely to be hospitalised if you are unvaccinated, so it can never be more important now to get vaccinated if you haven’t been so already.”
Asked about difficulties for NHS staff to get tested amid high absence rates in the health service, Mr Javid said work was being done to get them “easy access” to tests.
“It is right, of course, that they should be prioritised for testing and they are being prioritised,” added the Cabinet minister.
“So, as well as getting access to lateral flow tests through community channels that most of us would use, we also have separate access through NHS channels and what we’ve done in recent days is make sure that the NHS has all the tests it needs, and we’re working with them on distribution to make sure every NHS worker, should they need it, can get easy access to testing.”