European Covid surge ‘deeply worrying’ according to WHO
‘Deeply worrying’ is how Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe has described the current COVID-19 situation on the continent.
Thirty-three countries in the European region have reported a greater than 10% increase in 14-day case incidence. High transmission rates are combined with low vaccination uptake in priority populations in a number of countries.
In a statement today, Dr. Kluge said that several countries are starting to observe an increased burden on hospitals and more deaths. Last week, there was an 11% increase in the number of deaths in the WHO Europe Region, comprising 53 countries. According to the statement one reliable projection forecasts 236,000 deaths in Europe by December 1st.
Factors cited as responsible for this recent surge include the rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the easing of public health measures and a seasonal surge in travel driving growth in cases in most countries.
Dr. Kluge has highlighted the success of the vaccine program across Europe to date saying, ‘In roughly 8 months, nearly 850 million doses have been administered, with nearly half of the people of the Region being fully vaccinated.’
However, he said focus must be maintained on driving vaccination levels given that there has been a fall-off in the number of people being vaccinated in the last weeks.
He said, ‘In the past 6 weeks, vaccination uptake in the Region has slowed down, influenced by a lack of access to vaccines in some countries and a lack of vaccine acceptance in others. As of today, only 6% of people in lower- and lower-middle-income countries in our Region have completed a full vaccination series.
Even though nearly 3 in 4 health workers in our Region have completed a full COVID-19 vaccine series, there are countries that have only managed to vaccinate 1 in 10 health professionals.
There is a clear need to increase production, share doses and improve the vaccine access of Member States so that they may offer a full series of vaccination to populations. Everyone, everywhere should have the right to receive the full course.’
Dr. Kluge pointed to ‘vaccine scepticism’ and ‘science denial’ as holding back Europe from a full recovery from the pandemic saying, ‘Vaccination is a right, but it is also a responsibility. The stagnation in vaccine uptake in our Region is of serious concern. Now that public health and social measures are being relaxed in many countries, the public’s vaccination acceptance is crucial if we are to avoid greater transmission, more severe disease, an increase in deaths and a bigger risk that new variants of concern will emerge. Vaccine scepticism and science denial are holding us back from stabilizing this crisis. It serves no purpose and is good for no one.’