The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that it is unlikely that the Coronavirus will be gone by the end of this year. Addressing media persons at a press conference, Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergency Programme said, “I think it will be very premature and unrealistic to think that we are going to finish with this virus by the end of the year.” He added that the WHO’s singular focus at present was “to keep transmission as low as possible”. This will not only help prevent the emergence of variants, but will also reduce the number of people who are sick and arrive in hospital, and “more importantly to get as many people as possible vaccinated, particularly those who are on the frontline and those who are vulnerable.”

The WHO also reported an increase in COVID-19 cases. “In the past week, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 increased for the first time in seven weeks,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO. “Reported cases increased in four of WHO’s six regions: the Americas, Europe, South East Asia and Eastern Mediterranean,” he added. There were no reported increases in Africa and the Western Pacific region. “Some of it appears to be due to relaxing of public health measures, continued circulation of variants, and people letting down their guard,” he said.

But, in some good news, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire began vaccinating healthcare workers and vulnerable populations on Monday. They become the first two countries to use doses supplied by COVAX.

“Through these challenges, we have seen the best of humanity exemplified through strong multilateral cooperation”, said Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana. “As vaccination begins in Côte D’Ivoire… I am filled with confidence… that through COVAX and international solidarity we will be able to reach the most at-risk everywhere”, said José Manuel Barroso, Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a key partner in the initiative.

“The start of Africa’s biggest immunization drive in history through the COVAX facility marks a step forward in the continent’s fight against COVID-19”, said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

She added that the vaccine campaign is “a welcome shift towards bringing African countries off the sidelines and back into the vaccination race, correcting the glaring inequity which has been an unfortunate hallmark of the global vaccine rollout to date.” COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.

*Feature Image courtesy UNICEF via Twitter.