GENEVA — A senior World Health Organization official said Monday it was “premature” and “unrealistic” to think the pandemic might be stopped by the end of the year, but that the recent arrival of effective vaccines could at least help dramatically reduce hospitalizations and death.
The world’s singular focus right now should be to keep transmission of COVID-19 as low as possible, said Dr. Michael Ryan, director of WHO’s emergencies program.
“If we’re smart, we can finish with the hospitalizations and the deaths and the tragedy associated with this pandemic” by the end of the year, he said at media briefing.
Ryan said WHO was reassured by emerging data that many of the licensed vaccines appear to be helping curb the virus’s explosive spread.
“If the vaccines begin to impact not only on death and not only on hospitalization, but have a significant impact on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe we will accelerate toward controlling this pandemic.”
But Ryan warned against complacency, saying that nothing was guaranteed in an evolving epidemic.
“Right now the virus is very much in control,” he said.
WHO’s director-general, meanwhile, said it was “regrettable” that younger and healthier adults in some rich countries are being vaccinated against the coronavirus before at-risk health workers in developing countries.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said immunizations provided by the U.N.-backed effort COVAX began this week in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, but lamented that this was happening only three months after countries such as Britain, the U.S. and Canada began vaccinating their own populations.