The World Health Organization is calling for more investment in the development of new vaccines to keep pace with rapidly evolving forms of the coronavirus.
As the world’s attention is focused on the outbreak of monkeypox, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. He says new tools must be developed to contain this deadly disease, while public health measures must be maintained and strengthened.
He says one of the most effective ways to save lives is to vaccinate the right groups first. This means healthcare workers, older people, and other at-risk groups such as those with underlying health conditions.
He noted that COVID-19 cases and deaths have been increasing for the past five weeks. The latest WHO report puts the number of confirmed global cases at around 566 million, including more than 6.3 million deaths.
Tedros says many countries are also reporting hospitalizations following waves of transmission driven by the Omicron subvariant. “While vaccines have saved countless lives, they have not significantly reduced transmission. Therefore, it is important for governments and the private sector to continue to cooperate and invest in the development of new vaccines that prevent both infection and disease.”
Tedros says vaccines should be developed that can be more easily distributed, such as via nasal spray or drops.
WHO’s executive director for health emergencies, Mike Ryan, says pandemic preparedness should focus more. He says the risks of diseases like COVID-19, monkeypox, Marburg and polio are increasing as nations are reactive rather than proactive in tackling these diseases.
“I think we really need to look more systematically at how we prioritize pathogens for the future and then how we invest … it will cost money and it costs money. But It’s a great investment in protecting us down the line. And a dollar spent on preparedness is worth a thousand dollars spent on response.”
WHO chief Tedros agrees. He urged all countries to assess and strengthen their preparedness and response plans for future transmission waves.
He adds that as new vaccines and other COVID-19 tools are developed, it is important that they are equally available in all countries.