The World Health Organization warns that the rapid circulation of omicron and delta variants of the coronavirus is leading to a tsunami of cases, serious illness and a sharp increase in deaths among the unvaccinated.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that while science has led to the development of vaccines against COVID-19, the global death toll from the disease continues to rise.
In 2020, the World Health Organization reported 1.8 million deaths worldwide, a figure paralleling the additional 3.5 million deaths reported in 2021.
Tedros said the reason for the rise was that politics too often took precedence over the need to work together to defeat this pandemic.
“Populism, narrow-minded nationalism and the accumulation of health commodities, including masks, drugs, diagnostics and vaccines, in a small number of countries undermine equity and create the ideal conditions for new options to emerge,” he said.
Tedros denounced disinformation and misinformation, often disseminated by a small number of people, for undermining science and trust in life-saving healthcare. He said these double defects have raised doubts about vaccinations and are to blame for the disproportionate number of unvaccinated people dying from delta and omicron strains of the coronavirus.
He warned that the virus that causes COVID-19 will continue to evolve and threaten the health system unless countries improve their collective responses. He said it was time to rise above short-term nationalism and protect populations and economies from future options by tackling global vaccine inequalities.
“Ending health inequities remains the key to ending the pandemic,” Tedros said. “As this pandemic drags on, it is possible that new options may elude our countermeasures and become fully resistant to current vaccines or past infections, requiring vaccine adaptations.”
The WHO chief said it was time to abandon the politics of populism and self-interest that had hampered a global response to the pandemic. He asked everyone to make a New Year’s decision and support WHO’s campaign to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population by mid-2022.