Mon, September 27, 2021

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WHO calls for action to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in Europe


"Vaccination is a right, but its also a responsibility. Vaccine skepticism and science denial are holding us back from stabilizing this crisis. It serves no purpose, and is good for no one," said WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe on Monday called on health authorities to take urgent action to counter both an accelerated transmission of the coronavirus and a clear stagnation in vaccination rates across the region.

"The high transmission is deeply worrying particularly in the light of low vaccination uptake in priority populations in a number of countries. Several countries are starting to observe an increased burden on hospitals and more deaths," said WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge during an online press conference.

According to Kluge, alarm bells are already ringing in 33 of the 53 states in the WHO European region which have reported a greater than 10 percent increase of COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days. Moreover, there was an 11-percent increase in the number of deaths in the region during the past week.

"Three factors account for this increase: the first is the more transmissible Delta variant, now reported in 50 countries in the Region. The second factor is the easing of public health measures and the third is the seasonal surge in travel, driving a significant growth in case numbers in most countries," said Kluge.

Despite nearly 850 million vaccine doses having already been administered and nearly half of the people of the European Region being fully vaccinated, the regional director criticized the lack of access to vaccines in some countries and a lack of vaccine acceptance in others during a time when the "public's vaccination acceptance is crucial."

Passengers wait to receive COVID-19 vaccine at the Fiumicino airport in Rome, Italy, July 29, 2021.

"Vaccination is a right, but it's also a responsibility. Vaccine skepticism and science denial are holding us back from stabilizing this crisis. It serves no purpose, and is good for no one," said Kluge.

In an effort to counter vaccine skepticism, Kluge called upon the region's health authorities to examine closely what determines vaccination uptake by population groups and then "establish tailored interventions at the community level to boost vaccine uptake."

He called for an increase in vaccine production, sharing vaccine doses equitably as well as a drive on vaccine acceptance and demand as the three fundamental elements needed "to deliver on the promise that vaccination can move the European Region beyond the pandemic."

Asked about the perception of the effectiveness of a third vaccine jab, or the "booster jab," Kluge advised caution due to lack of evidence on its effectiveness.   

People walk on a street amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Madrid, Spain, Aug. 2, 2021.

Published : August 31, 2021