Three major threats to contaminating the world – UN health agency
At a briefing to UN member states on Thursday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyes drew attention to the $ 27 billion funding gap in the ACT Accelerator, which supports the development and fair distribution of coronavirus tests, treatments and vaccines around the world.
The longer this gap remains unsatisfied, the more difficult it is to understand why, given that this is a fraction of the trillions of dollars that have been mobilized for stimulus packages in the G20 countries, he said.
Second, while noting some bilateral agreements, he called on all states to abide by the COVAX contracts and not compete with them.
Third, Tedros highlighted the urgent need to scale up production to increase vaccine volume through innovative partnerships that include technology transfer, licensing and other mechanisms to eliminate production bottlenecks.
COVID is spreading in Africa
Meanwhile, as Africa marks a year since the first case of COVID-19, WHO said on February 14 that the continent saw a 40 percent spike in COVID deaths last month, bringing the death toll to close to 100,000.
The growing number of COVID-19 deaths we are seeing is tragic, but also a wake-up call that health workers and health systems in Africa are dangerously overwhelmed, WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said at a virtual press conference.
At the same time, more than 22,300 deaths have been reported across the continent in the last 28 days, up 3.7% from nearly 16,000 deaths in the previous 28 days, reflecting a 2.4% increase, according to WHO. This spike in mortality is due to the fact that the second wave in Africa, which began in October, seems to have reached its peak on January 6, spreading much faster and being much more deadly.
The WHO claimed that the number of cases of the second wave had significantly exceeded the peak recorded in the first wave, and medical facilities were overwhelmed. This grim milestone should reorient everyone towards eradicating the virus, said Dr. Moeti.
New strain, new challenges
At the same time, new infectious strains of COVID-19 are spreading rapidly as Africa prepares for its largest vaccination campaign in history. The variant known as B1.351, which was first identified in South Africa, is now found in eight African states, and the B1.1.7 mutation, originally identified in the United Kingdom, is found in six countries on the continent.
Obviously, this is very disappointing news, but the situation is very dynamic, said Dr. Moeti. A vaccine that protects against all forms of COVID-19 is our greatest hope, but preventing the severe cases that hospitals are suffering from is critical.
South Africa said this week that it will suspend the introduction of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, citing research showing it is less effective against the country’s dominant B1.351 strain.
A coordinated approach is needed
WHO says there is an urgent need for a coordinated approach to variant surveillance and additional evaluation to help decipher the potential impact they could have on vaccine efficacy.
The pandemic is far from over, and vaccines are just one of the most important tools in our fight against the virus. We must increase investment and support for our healthcare professionals and health systems by adhering to mask wearing, regular hand brushing and safe social distancing, said Dr. Moeti.