Europe is the epicenter of the pandemic again, despite vaccines

GENEVA – Senior World Health Organization officials said Thursday that Europe had seen coronavirus cases rise more than 50 percent last month, making it the epicenter of the pandemic despite an ample supply of vaccines.

“There may be many vaccines, but the uptake of the vaccine was not the same,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO chief for emergencies, during a press conference Thursday.

He called on the European authorities to “close the vaccination gap”. However, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries that have vaccinated more than 40 percent of their population should stop and instead donate their doses to developing countries that have not yet offered their citizens a first dose.

“No more boosters should be given, except in people who are immunocompromised,” said Tedros.

He urged vaccine manufacturers to give priority to the supply of COVAX, the United Nations-sponsored effort to distribute doses around the world; Pfizer only sold 1 percent of its shipments to COVAX; Moderna had only shipped 1 million cans to developing countries by the end of October.

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Although poorer countries receive less than 1 percent of the world’s Covid-19 vaccines, cases in Africa and Southeast Asia fell 9 percent last week.

More than 60 countries have started giving booster doses ahead of winter, when another wave of Covid-19 is expected, to combat dwindling immunity. In the United States, children ages 5-11 got Covid-19 vaccinations this week after authorities ruled the benefits outweigh the risks.

On Thursday, the Director of WHO’s 53 Country Region Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge that the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases are “serious concern”.

We are clearly in a different wave.

“Europe is back at the epicenter of the pandemic where we were a year ago,” said Kluge of the WHO Copenhagen office. Kluge – unlike his colleagues in Geneva – wore a mask and warned that coronavirus hospitalization rates had more than doubled in the past week and predicted that the region could see another 500,000 pandemic deaths along the way by February , he said.

According to WHO Europe, the region, which stretches as far east as the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, saw nearly 1.8 million new weekly cases, an increase of about 6 percent from the previous week, and 24,000 weekly deaths from Covid-19 – 12 percent to win.

Kluge said countries in the region are at “different stages of vaccination” and that an average of 47 percent of people in the region are fully vaccinated. Only eight countries had fully vaccinated 70 percent of their population.

Central and Eastern Europe battled a spiral of coronavirus cases on Thursday, with several countries setting new daily records in regions with lower vaccination rates than the rest of the continent.

Ukraine, Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia reported their highest daily case numbers, while other countries recorded the most infections in months.

Most central and eastern European countries have vaccinated about half their population or less, which is less than the European Union average of about 75 percent.

The spike in Covid in Europe marks the fifth week in a row that cases have risen across the continent, making it the only region of the world where Covid is still on the rise. The infection rate was by far the highest in Europe, which reported around 192 new cases per 100,000 population.

“We are clearly in another wave,” said Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell on Thursday. “The increased diffusion is entirely focused on Europe.”

In several countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the daily number of cases has skyrocketed in the last few weeks.

At an online briefing by the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency on Thursday, experts urged people to get vaccinated.

“The epidemiological situation in Europe is very worrying now as we go into winter with rising infection rates, hospitalizations and rising deaths,” said Fergus Sweeney, head of the EMA’s clinical trials and manufacturing task force.

He stressed that “it is very important that everyone is vaccinated or completing their vaccination dose when they have already received a first but not a second dose. It is really important that we are all vaccinated because we are not all protected until we are all protected in this regard. “

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