- Hospitals are becoming overcrowded and understaffed: WHO Chief
- WHO Chief raised the issue of vaccine inequity resulting in loss of lives
- ‘Booster after booster in a small number of countries won’t end pandemic’
New Delhi: The Omicron variant of the Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which was first detected in South Africa and Botswana in November, 2021 is spreading like a wildfire. The data shows that in some countries like South Africa, Omicron has plateaued whereas, in India, it is fueling the surge and driving the third wave. The variant has been touted to be mild but in his first speech of 2022 on Thursday (January 6), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO) cautioned against it. He said,
While Omicron does appear to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean it should be categorised as ‘mild’. Just like previous variants; Omicron is hospitalising people and it is killing people.
Dr Ghebreyesus noted that the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick, that it is overwhelming health systems around the world. He added,
Hospitals are becoming overcrowded and understaffed, which further results in preventable deaths from not only COVID-19 but other diseases and injuries where patients cannot receive timely care.
Last week, the highest number of COVID-19 cases was reported so far in the pandemic, said the WHO Chief and noted that the number was an underestimate as it didn’t reflect the backlog of testing around the holidays, the number of positive self-tests not registered, and burdened surveillance systems that miss cases around the world.
‘Booster After Booster In A Small Number Of Countries Will Not End A Pandemic’
The WHO has been calling for vaccine equity ever since the vaccination began in the world. WHO Chief wanted every country to vaccinate 40 per cent of their population by the end of December 2021 and 70 per cent by the middle of 2022. However, 92 member states, out of 194, missed the 40 per cent target. According to Dr Ghebreyesus, the target was missed due to a combination of limited supply going to low-income countries for most of the year and then subsequent vaccines arriving close to expiry and without key parts like the syringes.
And, in the case of about 20 countries, supply chain and distribution issues are also impacting rollouts. 40 per cent was doable. It’s not only a moral shame, it cost lives and provided the virus with opportunities to circulate unchecked and mutate, Dr Ghebreyesus had said on December 29, 2021.
Now, once again, WHO Chief has called to achieve the 70 per cent vaccination target and ensure that breakthrough treatments, as well as reliable tests, are available in all countries. Though, he categorically said that at the current pace of vaccine rollout, 109 countries would miss out on fully vaccinating 70 per cent of their populations by the start of July 2022.
The essence of the disparity is that some countries are moving toward vaccinating citizens a fourth time, while others haven’t even had enough regular supply to vaccinate their health workers and those at most risk. Booster after booster in a small number of countries will not end a pandemic while billions remain completely unprotected. But we can and must turn it around. In the short-term we can end the acute stage of this pandemic while preparing now for future ones, he said.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.