COVID-19 health emergency could be over this year, WHO says

Jan 18, 2022, 10:00 AM | Updated: Jan 19, 2022, 3:55 am

GENEVA (AP) — The worst of the coronavirus pandemic — deaths, hospitalizations and lockdowns — could be over this year if huge inequities in vaccinations and medicines are addressed quickly, the head of emergencies at the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

Dr. Michael Ryan, speaking during a panel discussion on vaccine inequity hosted by the World Economic Forum, said “we may never end the virus” because such pandemic viruses “end up becoming part of the ecosystem.”

But “we have a chance to end the public health emergency this year if we do the things that we’ve been talking about,” he said.

WHO has slammed the imbalance in COVID-19 vaccinations between rich and poor countries as a catastrophic moral failure. Fewer than 10% of people in lower-income countries have received even one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Ryan told the virtual gathering of world and business leaders that if vaccines and other tools aren’t shared fairly, the tragedy of the virus, which has so far killed more than 5.5 million people worldwide, would continue.

“What we need to do is get to low levels of disease incidence with maximum vaccination of our populations, so nobody has to die,” Ryan said. “The issue is: It’s the death. It’s the hospitalizations. It’s the disruption of our social, economic, political systems that’s caused the tragedy — not the virus.”

Ryan also waded into the growing debate about whether COVID-19 should be considered endemic, a label some countries like Spain have called for to better help live with the virus, or still a pandemic — involving intensified measures that many countries have taken to fight the spread.

“Endemic malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people; endemic HIV; endemic violence in our inner cities. Endemic in itself does not mean good. Endemic just means it’s here forever,” he said.

Public health officials have warned it is highly unlikely COVID-19 will be eliminated and say it will continue to kill people, though at much lower levels, even after it becomes endemic.

Fellow panelist Gabriela Bucher, executive director of the anti-poverty organization Oxfam International, cited the “enormous urgency” of fairer distribution of vaccines and the need for large-scale production. She said resources to fight the pandemic were being “hoarded by a few companies and a few shareholders.”

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, decried the “total collapse of global cooperation and solidarity” over the last two years, saying it was “totally unacceptable” how few people in Africa have gotten vaccine shots. His agency says only 10% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people are fully vaccinated.

He also sought to douse the belief among some that vaccine hesitancy is widespread in Africa, citing studies that say 80% of Africans were ready to get shots if the vaccines were available.

The comments came on the second day of the online alternative to the annual World Economic Forum gathering, which was postponed over pandemic health concerns.

In speeches at the event, world leaders like Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed approaches to the pandemic. He said his country, which quickly rolled out a widespread vaccination campaign, has a strategy of being “at the forefront of the medicines and the vaccines” against COVID-19.

Israel’s Health Ministry says 62% of people there are fully vaccinated, including with booster shots.

Citing advanced research in Israel, Bennett said, “We want to be first in the world to know how vaccines and the new variants respond to one another.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his country had high levels of vaccination because society values protecting the elderly and the vulnerable. He plans to keep stringent border controls in place until the end of February.

He said he was trying to balance restrictions with keeping the economy open but that a “zero COVID policy against the omicron variant is not possible nor appropriate.”

In a separate press briefing Tuesday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the omicron variant “continues to sweep the world,” adding there were 18 million new COVID-19 cases reported last week.

___

Associated Press reporters Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed.

___

Follow all AP stories on the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Man held in deadly Las Vegas lounge shooting takes plea deal

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Eleven attempted murder charges were dropped and a 44-year-old ex-convict pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single felony charge in a deadly shootout at a Las Vegas lounge that killed a man and injured at least 12 others. Lee Frank Wilson admitted being a felon in possession of a prohibited firearm in […]
14 hours ago
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily briefing at the White House ...
Associated Press

New ‘disinformation’ board paused amid free speech questions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday paused a new and controversial board’s work on disinformation and accepted the resignation of its leader, capping weeks of concerns about impinging on free speech rights and at times frenzied conspiracy theories about the board itself. What remains to be seen is whether the debate […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Target, Lowe’s fall; TJX, Agilysys rise

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks that traded heavily or had substantial price changes Wednesday: Target Corp., down $53.67 to $161.61. The retailer’s first-quarter profits were squeezed by higher costs amid persistently rising inflation. Lowe’s Companies Inc., down $10.21 to $183.32. The home improvement retailer reported disappointing sales. TJX Companies Inc., up $4 to $60.19. The […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra speaks during an interview in Washington ...
Associated Press

US health secretary tests positive for COVID on Germany trip

BERLIN (AP) — Another member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet has tested positive for COVID-19. U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive for the virus on Wednesday while visiting Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said. Becerra is fully vaccinated and was experiencing mild symptoms. HHS spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim said […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Big dreams for new Warner Bros. Discovery in ad presentation

In what was essentially a public debut on Wednesday, leaders of the new Warner Bros. Discovery portrayed the media giant as effectively a fifth U.S. broadcast television network, with even bigger aspirations. “Our goal is to build the most dynamic media and entertainment company in the world,” David Zaslav, the company’s CEO and president, told […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Man gets life in shooting death at online sale that went bad

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A former football player for the University of Alabama at Birmingham was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison in the death of a nursing student who was shot during an online sale that went bad. Carlos Stephens, 24, was convicted in April of capital murder in the 2020 shooting death […]
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
(Twitter photo / Coco5)...
Coco5

Suns star Devin Booker’s all-natural sports drink Coco5 perfect for any activity

Devin Booker is leading the Suns in pursuit of their first NBA championship while also working to provide people proper hydration with Coco5.
...
By Dr. Richard Carmona

Now’s a great time to receive your COVID-19 vaccine

If you haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine yet, now’s the time to join many other of your fellow Arizonans who are doing so right now. No one will criticize you; there is no shame. In fact, you’ll be welcomed with smiles and open arms!
COVID-19 health emergency could be over this year, WHO says