WHO official says it’s ‘premature’ to think pandemic will be over by end of year
A top World Health Organization (WHO) official said Monday that it is unlikely that the coronavirus pandemic will end completely in 2021, but noted that deaths and hospitalizations should be drastically reduced by the end of the year due to widespread vaccine access.
The Associated Press reported that Michael Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies program, told reporters in London it is “premature” and “unrealistic” to think that COVID-19 would disappear in 2021.
“If we’re smart, we can finish with the hospitalizations and the deaths and the tragedy associated with this pandemic,” Ryan said.
“If the vaccines begin to impact not only on death and not only on hospitalization, but have a significant impact on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe we will accelerate toward controlling this pandemic,” he added, according to the AP.
In his own, remarks, WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reportedly chastised richer nations including the U.S. for supplying vaccines to the WHO-led COVAX effort in poorer nations only after vaccination programs in their own countries were well underway.
“Countries are not in a race with each other,” he said. “This is a common race against the virus. We are not asking countries to put their own people at risk. We are asking all countries to be part of a global effort to suppress the virus everywhere.”
The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from COVAX last year, but the U.S. reentered it after President Biden took office in January. Earlier this month, Biden added that he was committing $4 billion to the effort.
“This pandemic is not going to end if we don’t end it globally,” a senior administration official told reporters of the decision earlier in February. “In addition to saving a lot of lives … it’s also the right thing to do form an international security and economic perspective.”
The U.S. has currently authorized three vaccines against COVID-19 for emergency use, with the most recent addition to the list being one produced by Johnson & Johnson, the first single-shot coronavirus inoculation available in America.