Monday, May 16, 2022

Need for countries to form a common front against COVID-19 stressed


By Princess-Ekwi Ajide

With the advent of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, the World Health Organisation, WHO, has expressed worry that even though almost eight billion vaccines have been administered around the world, one hundred and three countries still have not reached the forty percent target, and more than half of them are at risk of missing it by the end of the year.

In his opening remarks at the Special Session of the World Health Assembly, the Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated fundamental weaknesses in the global architecture for pandemic preparedness and response.

According to him, Omicron demonstrates just why the world needs a new accord on pandemics and the current system disincentivizes countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores saying that global health security is too important to be left to chance, or goodwill, or shifting geopolitical currents, or the vested interests of companies and shareholders

He emphasised that the best way of addressing them is with a legally binding agreement between nations; an accord forged from the recognition that they have no future but a common future

The WHO Director General noted this the time for countries to agree on a common, binding approach to a common threat that they cannot fully control nor prevent individually and see it as a threat that comes from relationship with nature itself.

Dr Ghebreyesus, noted more than eighty percent of the world’s vaccines have gone to G20 countries; whereas low-income countries, most of them in Africa, have received just zero point six percent of all vaccines because they could not access the vaccines they need reminding that vaccine equity is not charity as it is in every country’s best interests

He called Member States to support the targets to vaccinate forty percent of the population of every country by the end of this year, and seventy percent by the middle of next year adding that WHO’s position remains that health workers, older people and other at-risk groups must be vaccinated first in all countries before those at low risk of serious disease, and before boosters are given to already-vaccinated healthy adults

“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world… There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
Those words were written by the French writer Albert Camus in his classic novel La Peste – The Plague – in 1947.
Seventy-four years later, they have a disturbing prescience.
Outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics are a fact of nature, and a recurring feature of recorded history, from the Plague of Athens in 430 BCE, to the Black Death, the 1918 influenza pandemic, and now COVID-19.
But that does not mean we are helpless to prevent them, prepare for them or mitigate their impact.
We are not prisoners of fate or nature.
More than any humans in history, we have the ability to anticipate pandemics, to prepare for them, to unravel the genetics of pathogens, to detect them at their earliest stages, to prevent them spiralling into global disasters, and to respond when they do.
And yet here we are, entering the third year of the most acute health crisis in a century, and the world remains in its grip.
This pestilence – one that we can prevent, detect and treat – continues to cast a long shadow over the world.
Instead of meeting in the aftermath of the pandemic, we are meeting as a fresh wave of cases and deaths crashes into Europe, with untold and uncounted deaths around the world.
And although other regions are seeing declining or stable trends, if there’s one thing we have learned, it’s that no region, no country, no community and no individual is safe until we are all safe.
The emergence of the highly-mutated Omicron variant underlines just how perilous and precarious our situation is.
South Africa and Botswana should

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