As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads over the world, the UN health agency stated on Tuesday that more has to be done to ensure that all countries obtain life-saving coronavirus vaccines as soon as possible.
The news comes as a top World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist reiterated the agency’s message that countries could not “boost” their way out of the pandemic since the Omicron form was propagating so “intensely,” much like the Delta variant.
During a scheduled press meeting in Geneva before the holiday season, the WHO announced that 128 countries have discovered Omicron.
Dr. Abdi Mahamud, a WHO epidemiologist, believes that there is yet insufficient data to say if the Omicron variety is less harmful than other coronavirus variants.
He pointed out that hospitalization rates in London, which has been affected quite hard by rising COVID-19 infections, are roughly 20% lower now than they were in 2020 when vaccines were available.
An increasing number of studies, according to the WHO epidemiologist, appear to suggest that the Omicron form affects mostly the upper respiratory tract, causing milder symptoms.
Other strains have an effect on the lungs and can cause serious pneumonia, but further research is needed to back up this Omicron assessment.
The challenge has been vaccination of the most vulnerable populations, rather than the vaccine itself.
The virus replicates in an overcrowded, poorly ventilated, and unvaccinated environment without this level of vaccine protection. These kinds of environments are favorable for COVID-19 to mutate.
The WHO’s appeal for vaccination equity isn’t new, and it comes as many wealthier countries consider giving their citizens a fourth coronavirus shot.
Before Christmas, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that blanket booster programs will likely extend the pandemic by diverting supplies to countries with high vaccine coverage, allowing the virus to spread and mutate more freely.
The WHO director-general emphasized the importance of assisting nations in vaccinating 40% of their populations as soon as possible, and 70% by the middle of 2022.