The World Health Organization is warning that the rapid circulation of the omicron and delta variants of the coronavirus is leading to a tsunami of cases, severe disease and surging deaths among the unvaccinated.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that while science had led to the development of COVID-19 vaccines, the global death toll from the disease has kept rising.
In 2020, the World Health Organization reported 1.8 million deaths globally, a number that pales in comparison to the additional 3.5 million deaths reported in 2021.
Tedros said the reason for the climb was that politics has too often trumped the need to work together to defeat this pandemic.
“Populism, narrow nationalism and hoarding of health tools, including masks, therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines, by a small number of countries undermined equity and created the ideal conditions for the emergence of new variants,” he said.
Tedros condemned the misinformation and disinformation that often has been spread by a small number of people for undermining science and trust in lifesaving health tools. He said these twin evils have driven vaccine hesitancy and are to blame for the disproportionately large number of unvaccinated people dying from the delta and omicron strains of the coronavirus.
He warned that the virus that causes COVID-19 would continue to evolve and threaten the health system if nations did not improve their collective response. He said it was time to rise above short-term nationalism and protect populations and economies against future variants by addressing global vaccine inequity.
“Ending health inequity remains the key to ending the pandemic,” Tedros said. “As this pandemic drags on, it is possible that new variants could evade our countermeasures and become fully resistant to current vaccines or past infection, necessitating vaccine adaptations.”
The WHO chief said it was time to banish the politics of populism and self-interests that have been derailing the global response to the pandemic. He asked everyone to make a New Year’s resolution to get behind WHO’s campaign to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population by the middle of 2022.