The event comes as a senior World Well being Group (WHO) epidemiologist repeated the company’s message that international locations couldn’t “enhance” their approach out of the pandemic, whereas the Omicron variant was transmitting so “intensely”, simply because the Delta variant has completed.
“Within the context of intense social mixing, within the context of restricted use of confirmed public well being measures, within the context of restricted vaccination protection globally…these are circumstances that may enable any variant, any virus, to thrive,” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove informed BBC radio. “Omicron is making the most of that, and so is Delta.”
Earlier than the vacation interval, 128 international locations reported that that they had recognized Omicron, the WHO mentioned, throughout a scheduled press briefing in Geneva.
WHO epidemiologist Dr Abdi Mahamud, informed journalists that there was nonetheless not sufficient knowledge obtainable to say whether or not the Omicron variant is much less extreme than different coronavirus strains.
He famous that in London, which has been “hit very laborious” by spiking numbers of COVID-19 infections, hospitalisation charges have been round 20 per cent decrease now than that they had been in 2020, earlier than vaccinations have been obtainable.
“So the primary message is, if you’re vaccinated, you’re protected, however if you’re weak or you probably have not been vaccinated, this Omicron – nevertheless gentle or delicate it could be for others – it might hit you very laborious,” he mentioned. “So, vaccination (is) very essential.”
The WHO epidemiologist famous that an growing variety of research appeared to indicate that the Omicron variant appeared to have an effect on largely the higher respiratory tract, inflicting milder signs.
Different strains impression the lungs, and will trigger extreme pneumonia, he mentioned, however additional analysis was wanted to show this Omicron evaluation.
“The problem has not been the vaccine, however the vaccination of essentially the most weak populations,” he mentioned, earlier than urging extra international locations to push for 70 per cent vaccine protection as quickly as doable.
With out this degree of vaccine safety, the virus “replicates in an atmosphere that’s overcrowded, not ventilated and never vaccinated”, Dr Mahamud continued, describing these kind of settings as very best locations for COVID-19 to mutate.
“We noticed it in Beta, we noticed it in Delta, we noticed it in Omicron, so it’s within the international curiosity” to vaccinate 70 per cent of nationwide populations to scale back the impression of the variant, he mentioned.
WHO’s name for vaccine fairness shouldn’t be new and comes as many rich international locations think about providing a fourth coronavirus vaccine to their populations.
Earlier than Christmas, WHO Director-Normal Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that “blanket booster programmes” have been prone to extend the pandemic “by diverting provide to international locations that have already got excessive ranges of vaccination protection, giving the virus extra alternative to unfold and mutate”.
The WHO chief pressured that the precedence have to be on supporting international locations to vaccinate 40 per cent of their populations as shortly as doable, and 70 per cent by the center of 2022.