Europe and pharma groups must work together to speed up Covid-19 vaccinations, the head of the European branch of the World Health Organization said Friday, expressing concern about the effectiveness of vaccines on virus variants.
“We have to be prepared” for new problematic mutations of the virus “by expanding countries’ capacity for genomic sequencing”, WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told AFP in an interview.
In the European Union, just 2.5 percent of the population has received a first vaccine dose, though announcements by several laboratories of increased vaccine deliveries has raised hopes of an acceleration.
“We need to join up to speed up vaccinations … with otherwise competing pharmaceutical companies joining efforts to drastically increase production capacity… that’s what we need,” he said.
Asked whether the vaccines available since December would be effective against new virus variants, Kluge replied: “That’s the big question. I’m concerned.
“It’s a cruel reminder that the virus still has the upper hand on the human being.”
While the fight against the pandemic now appears more challenging than in December when the first vaccines became available, Kluge remained optimistic.
“I’ll be honest, I think that the tunnel is a little bit longer than what I thought at the end of December, but it’s going to be manageable, more preventable this year.”
He reiterated the WHO’s call for rich countries to show solidarity toward poor nations unable to buy vaccines, urging the wealthy ones to share their doses after having inoculated a portion of their own population.
“Maybe if EU countries vaccinate 20 percent of their population — 20 percent would mean elderly people, health care workers, people with comorbidity — if they hit 20 percent maybe that’s the moment that they can already start to share some vaccines,” he suggested.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)