Aproved COVID vaccines effective against all variants: WHO official

COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) are effective against all variants of the virus, said a UN health body official on Thursday.

“All COVID-19 virus variants can be controlled in the same way — with public health and social measures,” Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said at a news conference.

“All COVID-19 virus variants that have emerged so far do respond to the available, approved vaccines.”

COVID-19 cases and deaths are declining in the Europe region of the WHO, which comprises 53 states stretching from the Arctic to the Russian Far East.

Weekly cases in Europe have gone down from a plateau of 1.7 million during mid-April to just close to 685,000 new cases last week, said Kluge, noting a 60% decrease in a month.

However, he cautioned: “This progress is fragile. We have been here before.

– ‘Avoid past mistakes’

“Let us not make the same mistakes that were made this time last year, that resulted in a resurgence of COVID-19 and saw our health systems, communities, and economies once again bear the full force of this pandemic,” Kluge said.

He said Europe had learned its lesson the hard way.

While the European region is heading in the right direction, it needs to keep a watchful eye on a virus that has claimed the lives of nearly 1.2 million people in this region.

“That is the equivalent to the population of Brussels in Belgium,” said Kluge.

In several countries, there are pockets of increasing transmission that could quickly evolve into dangerous resurgences, he said.

– Pandemic not over yet

“Last week, case incidence remained high in eight countries in the region, at over 150 new cases per 100 000. The pandemic is not over yet,” said the WHO regional chief.

As several countries in the European region are currently scaling up testing for citizens to access cultural, social, and entertainment venues, Kluge issued a reminder that “there is no such thing as zero risk.”

He said that only 23% of people in the European region have had a single dose of vaccine, while 11% have completed their vaccine series.

“We still have some distance to cover before those eligible in the region receive their vaccine doses,” said Kluge.

He also explained that neither testing nor receiving vaccines is a substitute for adherence to measures such as physical distancing and mask-wearing in public spaces or healthcare settings.

“Vaccines may be a light at the end of the tunnel – but we cannot be blinded by that light,” said Kluge.

The new COVID-19 variant of concern: B.1.617, first identified in India, has now been identified in at least 26 countries out of 53 in the WHO European region, from Austria to Greece, Israel, and Kyrgyzstan.

Most of the cases have a link to international travel, but onwards transmission is occurring.

“We are still learning about the new variant, but it can spread rapidly and displace the B.1.1.7 lineage that has become the dominant lineage in Europe,” said Kluge.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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