Second year of global COVID-19 pandemic could “be far more deadlier than the first,” warns WHO director general

COVID-19 is "still evolving" and "progressing around the world," threatening to make the second year of the global pandemic "more deadlier than the first,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned this week.
Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

By OBERT MADONDO@Obiemad | MAY 15, 2021

Addressing a World Health Organization (WHO) member state information session on COVID-19 on May 12, 2021, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “the pandemic is still evolving, and progressing around the world.” Addressing the media two days later warned that the second year of COVID-19 could “be far more deadlier than the first”.

He said:

COVID-19 has already cost more than 3.3 million lives and we’re on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first.

Meanwhile, dozens of low-income countries with BIPOC (Black people, Indigenous people, People of Colour) majorities, most of them in Africa, still “have had no COVID-19 jab at all”.

And, according to the WHO Director General:

At present, only 0.3% of vaccine supply is going to low-income countries. Trickle down vaccination is not an effective strategy for fighting a deadly respiratory virus.

As of May 12, 2021, The New York Times’ COVID-19 Vaccinations Tracker reported:

More than 1.37 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, equal to 18 doses for every 100 people. There is already a stark gap between vaccination programs in different countries, with some yet to report a single dose… There is also a striking divide between continents. Africa has the slowest vaccination rate of any continent, with some countries yet to start mass vaccination campaigns… Less wealthy countries are relying on a vaccine-sharing arrangement called Covax, which aims to provide two billion doses by the end of the year. 83 percent of shots that have gone into arms worldwide have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Only 0.3 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries.

The tracker showed that, as of May 12, only 90,916 COVID-19 doses or 0.5 per 100 people, had been administered in Zambia, an impoverished, Black-majority African country from whose half-guarded economy Canada extracts tens of millions of dollars every year through largely unaccountable extractive businesses. By comparison, Canada had administered 16,904,709 COVID-19 doses or 45 per 100 people.

The Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford in the UK provides insight into how countries and communities around the world are faring on COVID-19 vaccinations. As of May 13, the project confirmed that Canada had administered 45.83 COVID-19 doses per 100 people. By comparison, Zambia had administered only 0.49 doses per 100 people.

As per Axios, “Across Africa, an average of 397,000 doses is being administered per day. At that rate, it would take 11 years for 60% of the continent’s population to be fully vaccinated (1% have one dose).”

Meanwhile, a high level report issued by a panel of experts this week after an 8-month probe into the global response to COVID-19 characterized the pandemic as a “Chernobyl moment” for “bold reform” in global health.

The the panel’s report, entitled, “COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic,” (PDF), argued that COVID-19 was a “preventable disaster” that became a pandemic due a lack “global political leadership”.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), co-chaired by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand.

“Our message is simple and clear: the current system failed to protect us from the COVID-19 pandemic”, said Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Laureate and Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state. “If we do not act to change it now, it will not protect us from the next pandemic threat, which could happen at any time.” She added:

The shelves of storage rooms in the UN and national capitals are full of reports and reviews of previous health crises. Had their warnings been heeded, we would have avoided the catastrophe we are in today. This time must be different.

Clark said:

Given the scale of devastation from this pandemic and its continuing impact on people across the globe, the Panel resolved to document fully what happened and why, and to make bold recommendations for change. The tools are available to put an end to the severe illnesses, deaths, and socio-economic damage caused by COVID-19. Leaders have no choice but to act and stop this happening again.

Below are a few news headlines highlighting on the still evolving global COVID-19 pandemic:

UN News: Vaccine inequity posing ‘significant risk’ to global economic recovery: UN report

The World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) mid-year report warned widening inequality is threatening global growth, projected at 5.4 per cent this year…“Vaccine inequity between countries and regions is posing a significant risk to an already uneven and fragile global recovery”, said UN Chief Economist Elliott Harris. “Timely and universal access to COVID-19 vaccinations will mean the difference between ending the pandemic promptly and placing the world economy on the trajectory of a resilient recovery, or losing many more years of growth, development and opportunities.”

The mid-year forecast updates the WESP report published in January by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). It examines the performance of the world economy since the pandemic began, as well as the impact of global policy responses and post-crisis recovery scenarios. (UN News, May 11, 2021) READ FULL STORY

ABC News: Vaccine deserts: Some countries have no COVID-19 jabs at all

At the small hospital where Dr. Oumaima Djarma works in Chad’s capital, there are no debates over which coronavirus vaccine is the best.There are simply no vaccines at all. Not even for the doctors and nurses like her, who care for COVID-19 patients in Chad, one of the least-developed nations in the world where about one third of the country is engulfed by the Sahara desert.

While wealthier nations have stockpiled vaccines for their citizens, many poorer countries are still scrambling to secure doses. A few, like Chad, have yet to receive any. The World Health Organization says nearly a dozen countries — many of them in Africa — are still waiting to get vaccines. Those last in line on the continent along with Chad are Burkina Faso, Burundi, Eritrea and Tanzania. (Larson, May 9, 2021) READ FULL STORY

The Guardian: Vaccinate vulnerable global poor before children in rich countries, WHO says

The WHO has urged wealthy countries to reconsider plans to vaccinate children against Covid-19 and instead to donate doses to poorer nations, while warning that the pandemic’s second year looks set to be more deadly. The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, voiced outrage that a number of rich countries were now vaccinating children and teenagers while poorer states had barely begun vaccinating health workers and their most vulnerable groups. Instead of offering jabs to young and healthy people, countries should give their doses to the Covax global vaccine-sharing scheme and thereby ensure that those most in need in all countries receive protection, he said…

The WHO is hoping more countries will follow France and Sweden in donating shots to Covax after inoculating their priority populations, to help address a gulf in vaccination rates.Canada and the US are among countries that have authorised vaccines for use in adolescents in recent weeks. (Staff and agencies in Geneva. (Staff and agencies in Geneva, May 14, 2021) READ FULL STORY

STAT: Covid pandemic should serve as ‘Chernobyl moment’ for global health reform, international experts say

The Covid-19 crisis should serve as a “Chernobyl moment” for global pandemic preparedness, triggering a series of actions to speed the end of this pandemic and to ensure it’s the last of its kind the world ever faces, according to a report from an international panel of experts. The report by the panel, which was established at the behest of member states of the World Health Organization, calls on wealthy countries with Covid vaccine to share their supplies in large volumes and quickly, with 1 billion doses donated by September and another 1 billion by the end of the year. The report calls for swift negotiations to lift intellectual property protections for Covid vaccines — and an automatic waiver if the negotiations fail to deliver within three months.

It also recommends reform of the global architecture for pandemic preparedness and for significant changes to the way the WHO — which has led the global Covid response — is funded and functions, including limiting WHO directors-general to a single seven-year term to ensure their independence. Directors-general can currently serve two five-year terms, but must be reelected to secure the second term. (Branswell. May 12, 2021) READ FULL STORY

CNBC News: Panel suggests WHO should have more power to stop pandemics

A panel of independent experts that reviewed the World Health Organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic says the U.N. health agency should be granted “guaranteed rights of access” in countries to investigate emerging outbreaks, a contentious idea that would give it more powers and require member states to give up some of theirs. In a report released Wednesday, the panel faulted countries worldwide for their sluggish response to Covid-19, saying most waited to see how the virus was spreading until it was too late to contain it, leading to catastrophic results. The group also slammed the lack of global leadership and restrictive international health laws that “hindered” WHO’s response to the pandemic.

(CNBC News, May 12, 2021) READ FULL STORY

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Obert Madondo
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, photographer, activist, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. Obert is the founder and editor of The Zimbabwean Progressive and The Canadian Progressive, both of which are independent political blogs dedicated to producing fearless, evidence-based, adversarial, unapologetic, progressive and activism-oriented journalism situated right at the intersection of politics, technology and human rights. Follow Obert on Twitter: @Obiemad