Story at a glance

  • Somewhere between 80,000 and 180,000 health and care workers died between January 2020 and May 2021, according to WHO.
  • WHO officials emphasized the vaccine disparity between wealthier and poorer nations.
  • “In Africa, less than one in 10 health workers have been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, in most high-income countries, more than 80 percent of health workers are fully vaccinated,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates some 115,000 health care workers around the globe died from COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic and called on leaders to prioritize vaccination for those on the frontline of the health crisis.

The agency on Thursday released a working paper based on surveillance data showing 3.45 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide between January 2020 and May 2021. The death toll currently stands just under 5 million. 

Out of the 135 million health and care workers, WHO said a broader estimate of somewhere between 80,000 to 180,000 health care workers may have died from COVID-19 over that time period. 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday that two in five health care workers globally are fully vaccinated, but emphasized the large disparity in vaccination rates between high-income and lower-income nations. 


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“That average masks huge differences across regions and economic groupings,” Tedros said during a news briefing Thursday. 

“In Africa, less than one in 10 health workers have been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, in most high-income countries, more than 80 percent of health workers are fully vaccinated,” he said. 

“More than 10 months since the first COVID-19 vaccines were approved, the fact that millions of health workers still haven’t been vaccinated is an indictment on the countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines,” Tedros said. 

Tedros said wealthier nations have administered nearly half as many booster shots as the total number of vaccines administered in poorer nations. 

The WHO has set a target of vaccinating 40 percent of every country’s population with at least one dose by the end of 2021, but officials warned some 82 countries, particularly those in Africa, are at risk of missing that target due to an insufficient supply of vaccine. 


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Published on Oct 22, 2021