She called for expanded vaccine equity and sharing of tools in poorer countries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and its continued mutation.
Vaccines are effective, but ‘not 100%’
“Vaccination is just one tool. It’s not a silver bullet,” she told DW. “Vaccines are very effective against protecting against severe disease…But vaccines are not 100% effective against infection.”
Although breakthrough infections remain rare, being vaccinated does not mean a person cannot pass the virus to someone else at higher risk.
“You still see countries today with high rates of vaccination and still having increasing rates of infection,” Swaminathan explained. “And the higher the rates of transmission, the danger is that you’re generating new variants, which are then going to come back and infect those people, even if you are vaccinated. There’s really a strong scientific argument to be made for continuing to use the other measures until everyone around the world is protected.”
Concerning trends from Europe suggest that the world needs to step up vaccination campaigns and ensure high coverage, said World Health Organization Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan on Wednesday.
The health expert took to Twitter to note that there has been a global increase in cases in Europe, Americas and Western Pacific regions. However, deaths have plateaued at around 50,000 a week, she said. Dr. Swaminathan reiterated the need to ensure adherence to social distancing, wearing masks in public places, and following Covid-19 protocol as per norms.
Dr. Swaminathan’s warnings comes amidst worries of India facing a third wave of Covid-19 infections. The last big spike in infections and deaths were observed in May 2021, leading to a shortage of hospital beds and over-burdening of medical facilities. Since then, however, India has stepped up its vaccination program. Yet, only 27% of the population is fully vaccinated till date.
Here are three trends to note, as per the WHO chief:
1. Europe sees spike in cases, deaths
Sharing a graph showing the progress of the infections and deaths in the European Region since January 2020, Dr. Swaminathan wrote on Twitter, “Very concerning trends from Europe. 8% increase of cases and 5% increase in deaths. We need to step up vaccination campaigns and ensure high coverage first among the elderly and vulnerable. Also, continue masking, don’t crowd in unventilated places and stay home if sick.”
2. Most deaths among the unvaccinated
Dr. Swaminathan said that the deaths are mostly concentrated among the unvaccinated. Over 35% of population in the European region remains to be fully vaccinated.
“Most deaths are in the unvaccinated in all countries. We need use the vaccine supplies for primary courses and save lives,” she wrote on Twitter.
3. Delta variant still dominant
“#Delta variant accounts for 99.7% of viral subtypes in @GISAID over past 60 days. In South America there is still some Mu and Lambda circulating. #AY4.2 sub lineage may have some transmission advantage & needs watching,” she wrote.
With rise in coronavirus cases, Europe has become the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic again. This has prompted some governments to consider re-imposing unpopular lockdowns.