WHO target EU’s sluggish vaccination programme

As the European region currently fights a resurgence of COVID-19 transmissions, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe on Thursday called upon the governments in the region to “scale-up of both vaccine production and vaccination.”

According to WHO Europe, to date, only 10 percent of the region’s total population has received one vaccine dose, and four percent has completed a full vaccine series.

“Let me be clear: we must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now,” said Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe said in a press release.

There were 1.6 million new COVID-19 cases and 24,000 deaths last week, which made Europe the second most affected region in the world, said the WHO regional office, highlighting the urgency of a speedier vaccine roll-out.

“Vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic…However, the roll-out of these vaccines is unacceptably slow,” said Kluge.

Of particular concern to WHO Europe is the ongoing disparity in the vaccine roll-out across the European region which has seen every high-income country in the region vaccinating, while “only 80 percent of upper-middle-income countries and 60 percent of lower- and lower-middle-income countries” vaccinating.

“While acknowledging the intent of governments to protect their own populations, before the vaccines are extended to other age groups I strongly urge governments to share excess doses of WHO-approved vaccines with COVAX or with countries in need, once health-care workers and the most vulnerable have been vaccinated,” said Kluge.

COVAX is a World Health Organization-led initiative aimed at ensuring equal access to COVID-19 vaccines by various countries.

According to WHO Europe statistics, the total number of deaths in the European region is now fast approaching one million and the total number of cases of transmission of the coronavirus will soon exceed 45 million.

“Only five weeks ago, the weekly number of new cases in Europe had dipped to under one million, but now the region’s situation is more worrying than we have seen in several months,” said Dorit Nitzan, Regional Emergency Director for the WHO Regional Office for Europe in the press release.

According to WHO Europe, it was more preferable for a vaccine to work alongside timely and targeted public health interventions.

“And as long as the coverage remains low, we need to apply the same public health and social measures as we have in the past, to compensate for delayed schedules,” said Kluge.

In reference to the increased mobility around the Easter holidays over the next few days, as variants of concern continue to spread across the region, Kluge reminded citizens and their governments in the region of their responsibility in the face of the pandemic.