WHO VIDEO : Stay strong & vigilant, work together, vaccine equity

Approximative transcription:

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme

“So, Omicron, the latest variant of concern that WHO is tracking, has been detected around the world. It is efficiently transmitting. And in fact everywhere where we have good sequencing, this variant is being detected, so it is circulating globally at the present time. It first emerged, was first reported, in fact, in South Africa and Botswana. And in those countries, Delta was circulating on a low level, so Omicron took over quite quickly in terms of circulation to become the dominant variant circulating. In other parts of the world, Delta was circulating intensively. And so as Omicron was introduced into those populations, what we’re seeing is co-circulation of both Delta and Omicron. Now, in some countries that have had a few weeks of circulation of Omicron, Omicron is taking over. It’s replacing Delta. But in other countries that hasn’t taken place yet. What we are seeing is a very sharp increase in case numbers. You will have noticed in the latest WHO update almost 10 million cases reported in the last seven days. And that’s the highest number of cases we’ve seen to date. In the last 24 hours there’s been almost two and a half million cases, or more than two and a half million cases.”

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme

“So, there are several reasons why we’re seeing such a sharp increase in case numbers. First, is the emergence of Omicron and the circulation of Omicron, which transmits very efficiently between people. There’s a number of reasons for this. First, is the mutations that it has. The virus is able to adhere to human cells more easily. It has mutations that allow it to do that. Second, is that we have what is called immune escape. And this means that people can be reinfected either from if they had a previous infection or if they’ve been vaccinated. Now you have to remember, vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing severe disease and death, but they don’t prevent all infections and they don’t prevent all onward transmission. So it is still absolutely critical to get vaccinated because it will save your life, but it doesn’t prevent all infections or transmission. The other reason is that we are seeing replication of Omicron in the upper respiratory tract, and that’s different from Delta and other variants, including the ancestral strain which replicated in the lower respiratory tract, in the lungs. And so this combination of factors allowed the virus to spread more easily. But what is also important to remember is that this is in the context of people mixing more, people coming into contact with others more, people not adhering to public health and social measures like distancing, wearing of a well-fitting mask, avoiding crowds, spending time more outdoors than indoors and in the northern hemisphere, where it’s getting colder and we’re in the winter months now, people spend more time indoors and particularly in crowds. All of those factors allow viruses to spread, whether it’s Omicron or something else.”

Advertisement

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme

“With regards to the severity of Omicron, we’re learning more about this every day. What we understand from a number of countries and the studies that are coming from a number of countries is that your risk of developing severe disease or needing hospitalization from Omicron is less compared to Delta. That doesn’t mean that it’s a mild disease. It does mean, though, that if you are infected that your chances of needing hospitalization are less. What we do know also from a number of countries, is that your risk of developing severe disease increases with age, and that’s the same as with Delta. It also increases if you have underlying conditions. And of course, it’s increased if you’re not vaccinated. So this is why it is so critical that when it is your turn that you get vaccinated, you receive the full dose because vaccination is saving lives. Vaccination is preventing people from developing severe disease as well as going on to dying. And that’s true for Delta as well as for Omicron.” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme “It’s really important that our health care systems do not get overburdened. I mean, we’re in the third year of this pandemic and health systems are really stretched. Our health workers are incredibly stretched. Many of them are getting infected right now from being in the community, as well as being in the health care facility itself. And this has an impact on the care of patients, not only for COVID patients but also for other diseases and other emergencies.”

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme

“As the virus circulates into the third year of this pandemic, we will see more. So it is very unlikely that Omicron will be the last variant you’ll hear us speaking about. This is why it is so critical that we focus on getting vulnerable populations around the world vaccinated and that we increase vaccination coverage in all countries, not just in some. So please get vaccinated when it’s your turn and really fight for vaccine equity and demand that from the leaders where you live, that we need people to have access to life-saving tools like vaccines. At the same time, we have to continue to drive transmission down. We cannot only focus on vaccinations, it’s vaccines and, not vaccines only. So everyone needs to play their part in reducing the opportunity to get infected and to spread this virus. And there’s a number of things that we can do. Distancing, masking, improving ventilation, avoiding crowds, keeping your hands clean. All of those layers of interventions keep you and your loved ones safe.”

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme

“The general public out there, what you need to worry about is just reducing your exposure to the virus that’s circulating where you live, if it’s Omicron or if it’s Delta. We want people to understand and feel empowered that they have some control over the infection. We have heard some people suggest that Omicron is just mild. That’s not the case. There is evidence that Omicron is causing less severe disease, but it doesn’t mean that Omicron is mild and Omicron is not the common cold. So please take measures to keep yourself from getting infected. One last point to mention is the risk of developing post-COVID-19 condition or long COVID. We do know that that a proportion of people who are infected with this virus can go on to develop long term impacts, which are called long COVID or post-COVID 19 condition. And so that’s reason enough to try to prevent yourself from getting infected for that. But don’t forget about this because we want to make sure that we keep you safe from infection yourself, developing severe disease, passing the virus to somebody else, but also to prevent from developing long COVID.”

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme

“I know this can be incredibly frustrating as we enter the third year of this pandemic and everyone is exhausted. I am too and frustrated. But what we need to do is to stay strong, stick together and stay vigilant because if we work together, if we fight for vaccine equity, if we adhere to these measures together, we have a much better chance of overcoming this virus together and we will. All pandemics end. This pandemic will end. We really do need to stay strong. We need to stick together. I would also emphasize to really be kind to one another because this is wearing thin on our patience and how exhausted all of us actually are. But please remain vigilant.”

Source- WHO HQ, Geneva Switzerland 07 JAN2 022

16336526731883929
Neeraj Nanda

Share to

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Tags

Get our Newsletter and e-Paper

Related Articles

ILO: Labour market recovery goes into reverse; deficit of 112 m jobs

ILO: Labour market recovery goes into reverse; deficit of 112 m jobs

NEWS ANALYSIS: India’s wheat export ban irks US, G7 nations

NEWS ANALYSIS: India’s wheat export ban irks US, G7 nations

Sanna Irshad Mattoo, Adnan Abidi, Amit Dave, Danish Siddiqui among Pulitzer winners

Sanna Irshad Mattoo, Adnan Abidi, Amit Dave, Danish Siddiqui among Pulitzer winners