The World Health Organization (WHO) has projected that over half of the people in Europe will likely catch Omicron by March as the World Bank warned that the highly transmittable variant could negatively impact global economic recovery. This is as the UN health agency has warned that repeating booster doses of the original Covid-19 vaccines was not a viable strategy against emerging variants.
This was disclosed by the WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge, on Tuesday, where he said that the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that over 50% of Europe will be affected by Omicron in the next 6 to 8 weeks. The WHO has called for new vaccines that better protect against transmission.
A WHO vaccine advisory group said, “A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable.’’ Europe has become the epicentre of the Omicron variant outbreak with not less than 8 million infections reported over the past 7 days, with the region currently reporting the largest number of deaths and cases worldwide.
What the WHO’s Regional Director for Europe is saying
Hans Kluge described a “new west-to-east tidal wave sweeping across” the region. He said, “The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that more than 50 per cent of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks.’’ The WHO’s European region covers 53 countries and territories including several in Central Asia, and Kluge said 50 of them had Omicron cases.
Kluge confirmed that Omicron is more transmissible than previous variants, but however stressed: “approved vaccines do continue to provide good protection against severe disease and death — including for Omicron.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that the spread of Omicron was pushing Covid towards being an endemic disease that humanity could live with, even if it remained a pandemic for now.
What you should know
Recall that the WHO had earlier warned that the Omicron variant could produce a tsunami of Covid-19 cases that will overwhelm the healthcare system as cases surge to record levels with concern that the Omicron is more transmissible and circulating at the same time as the Delta variant.
The global institution had also warned against describing the Omicron variant as mild but rather insisted that it is killing people across the globe.
As the Omicron variant keeps spreading rapidly across the globe, health experts maintain vaccines are among the most potent tools available against the pandemic. But the deep scepticism and often violent opposition to jabs in many countries have become the focus recently.