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Tipsheet

WHO Director-General Says Countries Can’t Rely on Vaccines to Solve the Pandemic

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

On Tuesday, the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned countries against lifting their Wuhan coronavirus restrictions, claiming that the virus “continues to evolve” and that vaccines alone are not the answer.

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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the remarks to reporters during a press briefing on Tuesday. He emphasized that while he did not believe countries needed to return to lockdowns, he said that countries could not rely on vaccines to solve the pandemic.

“We're concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines, and because of omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity, preventing transmission is no longer possible and no longer necessary,” Ghebreyesus said during the briefing. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Ghebreyesus added that “more transmission [of the Omicron variant] means more disease.” He noted that 90 million cases of the variant have been reported to the WHO since it first emerged 10 weeks ago.

“We are not calling for any country to return to so-called ‘lockdown.’ But we are calling on every country to protect their people using every tool in the tool kit. No vaccines alone,” he continued. “It's premature for any country either to surrender or to declare victory.”

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Ghebreyesus emphasized that countries need to continue testing and surveillance of the virus and that all people have access to vaccines. Last year, as I covered, Ghebreyesus urged countries to halt the development of booster shots as several countries lacked access to initial COVID-19 vaccines

“While many countries haven’t even started vaccinating, and another country has already vaccinated the majority of its population, the two doses, and now moving to a third dose, which is the booster, it’s really not only disappointing, it’s seriously disappointing,” he told reporters in December. “No country can boost its way out of the pandemic.”

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