The World Health Organisation urged states to adopt a two-track approach to curb the coronavirus transmission and “save lives,” including the need to vaccinate the most vulnerable population and to stop easing preventive measures.
The WHO special envoys for COVID-19 said in a statement the two-track approach is needed in light of the emergence of more infectious variants (SARS-CoV-2).
This first track is concerned with the need for governments and vaccine manufacturers to support all WHO member states in their accelerated efforts to create vaccine manufacturing capacity and vaccinate their most vulnerable populations.
The envoys warned that the intense circulation of the virus in countries with no vaccines increases the possibility of more transmissible and dangerous variants, threatening to make current vaccines less effective.
“Global solidarity – even fuelled by the selfish interest of stopping the emergence of new variants – is needed more than ever,” the statement read.
The second track states that individuals and communities should maintain focus on continuing essential public health measures to break transmission chains.
The WHO envoys called on the world to “implement a strategy at global, regional and national level whereby the most vulnerable are vaccinated first, rather than leaving health workers, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions at risk of severe disease.”
Almost three billion vaccine doses have been distributed globally, the envoys said, while only 90 million of those have gone through the Gavi-led initiative COVAX, which aims to secure equitable access to coronavirus vaccines across the world.
The envoys said at least 60 countries rely on COVAX for vaccines, whose vaccination rates average less than three percent.
The envoys in this regard called for supporting WHO’s call to vaccinate at least 10 percent of the population of every country by September and 40 percent by the end of 2021.
They affirmed the need to vaccinate 250 million more people in low and middle-income countries in the coming four months in order to achieve the September goal, while giving the priority to all health workers and the most at-risk groups.
The envoys urged countries with the greatest stocks of vaccines to refrain from hoarding them and pushing to cover their entire populations while other countries do without, according to the statement.
“In combination with new more infectious variants and the ‘me first’ attitude of some countries, the unvaccinated and those who have received only one dose of vaccination are at increasing risk,” the statement read.
The envoys also warned against easing basic public health measures such as wearing mask and social distancing risks, saying this can fuel ongoing coronavirus transmission.
They affirmed the need for all populations to refresh their commitment to continue adhering to mask wearing, physical distancing, ventilation and other related actions to protect themselves and others.
“The urgent call is to save lives. The world has a moral imperative to do so,” the envoys said, affirming the need to adopt WHO’s two-track approach as “no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
WHO envoys for COVID-19 worldwide Maha El Rabbat, David Nabarro, John Nkengasong, Mirta Roses, Samba Sow, and Palitha Abeykoon contributed to the statement.