As Covid-19 cases skyrocket again in Europe, the World Health Organization on Friday called for more targeted vaccination efforts to ensure the world’s most vulnerable take the hits.
The UN health agency said Europe, once again at the epicenter of the pandemic, recorded nearly two million Covid cases last week.
That is “the most in a single week in the region since the pandemic began,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
But as countries strive to curb transmission by reimposing restrictions or implementing more vaccines and boosters, the WHO said it was vital to make sure the blows reach those who need them most, on the continent and beyond.
“It’s not just about how many people get vaccinated. It’s about who gets vaccinated,” Tedros said.
“It makes no sense to give boosters to healthy adults, or to vaccinate children, when healthcare workers, the elderly and other high-risk groups around the world are still waiting for their first dose,” he said.
More and more countries have been rolling out additional doses for their already vaccinated populations, despite repeated calls by the WHO for a moratorium on boosters until the end of the year to free up injections for poorer nations.
“Every day, six times more boosters are given globally than primary doses in low-income countries,” Tedros said, insisting that “this is a scandal that must stop now.”
More targeted efforts are also needed in rich countries that have access to sufficient doses, but where many refuse to take the hits, said WHO emergency director Michael Ryan.
He noted that in countries with wide and high vaccination coverage, the increase in Covid cases will not translate into many more hospitalizations and deaths, as jabs are very effective in protecting against serious diseases.
But he warned that even in countries where overall vaccination figures are high, health systems could quickly come under pressure if significant groups of vulnerable populations remain unvaccinated.
“If you are in Europe at the moment, where we have this intense transmission, and you are at a high risk of belonging to a vulnerable group or an elderly person and you are not vaccinated, your best option is to get vaccinated.” he told reporters.
He pointed to a recent British study that showed that an unvaccinated person has a 32 times greater risk of dying in this pandemic than a vaccinated person.
“Those are very good odds if you want to see that in terms of something that increases your chances of life.”