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A coronavirus vaccine 'does not mean zero COVID', warns WHO

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Mike Ryan
Mike Ryan   -   Copyright  Credit: AP
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned people not to get complacent about the spread of COVID-19 now the first vaccine doses have been rolled out.

"The progress in vaccines gives us all a boost and we can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday.

"However, WHO is concerned that there is a growing perception that the pandemic is over. The truth is that at present, many places are witnessing very high transmission of the virus, which is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers.

"Some countries in Europe have managed to reduce transmission of the virus by putting stringent measures in place that limit people from mingling. As previously seen, as these measures are lifted, it's important that people should continue to follow national and local measures to ensure that cases do not rebound."

The WHO chief also welcomed the announcement made by President-elect Joe Biden and former US presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton who said they were willing to be vaccinated publicly to encourage their fellow citizens to do the same.

"Vaccines do not mean zero COVID", said Mike Ryan, who is in charge of emergency situations at the UN agency.

"Vaccines and vaccination will add a major, major powerful tool to the toolkit that we have. But by themselves, they will not do the job. And therefore we have to add vaccines into an existing public health strategy."

The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 65 million people and killed more than 1.5 million worldwide, has started to accelerate around the world again.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the person in charge of the management of the pandemic at the WHO, called on the population to "really think about what you are doing" during the holiday season in order to limit the transmission of the coronavirus.

"The decisions we make now can mean life or death for us, for our family," added Van Kerkhove.

The WHO Director-General also announced on Friday that the coalition against the coronavirus launched by the WHO and baptised Covax had obtained 700 million doses of three types of vaccines.

Covax has been put in place to ensure that vaccines will be distributed fairly.

"And next year, we intend to use additional funds to ensure that at least two billion doses of safe and effective vaccines are available worldwide," he detailed.

These vaccines will first be used by health and social workers. They will then be deployed to cover 20% of the population of the countries participating in this mechanism.