World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday shared his concerns about what he calls “a false sense of security that vaccines have ended the pandemic,” while warning that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet.
Speaking at a Thanksgiving briefing in Geneva, Tedros said WHO is concerned that people from many countries around the world who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer taking precautions to protect themselves and others from the virus.
The head of WHO also noted that last week at least 60 percent of all reported cases and deaths from COVID-19 worldwide were again reported in Europe.
“The sheer number of cases is putting undue pressure on health systems and wasting health workers,” he said.
“In many countries and communities, we are concerned about a false sense of security that vaccines have ended the pandemic and that vaccinated people do not need any other precautions … Vaccines save lives, but they do not completely prevent transmission,” he added.
Tedros also pointed to data showing vaccine efficacy has declined over time in the face of Delta COVID, explaining that vaccines that initially reduced transmission by about 60 percent have now dropped to 40 percent.
The WHO chief reiterated that while vaccines can reduce the risk of serious reactions to COVID-19 and even death, this does not mean that a vaccinated person is not at risk of contracting or contracting others with the virus.
“We cannot say this clearly enough: even if you are vaccinated, continue to take precautions so as not to become infected yourself and not to infect someone else who may die,” Tedros said.
“It means wearing a mask, keeping your distance, avoiding crowds and meeting others outside if you can, or in a well-ventilated area inside.”
The head of WHO said the organization continues to urge governments around the world to take a “one-to-one approach” when it comes to preventing transmission through public health measures such as social distancing and isolation.
Protests have erupted in several European countries and other Western countries over the past week, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to protest against COVID-19 vaccination demands. In particular, the EU governments have begun to tighten the related restrictions.
In Austria, tens of thousands of people protested in Vienna, Salzburg and other cities after the Austrian government announced nationwide isolation amid a sharp rise in cases of the virus.
The isolation in Austria began on November 22 and will last 10 days before government officials revise it. The country said it would make vaccinations mandatory for everyone from February 1, 2022.
Similar protests have also erupted in Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, Croatia, France, Great Britain and the French island of Guadeloupe, where demonstrators set fire to police cars and set up roadblocks.
Germany, meanwhile, is currently considering making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for everyone starting February 1, 2022, because the government has failed to convince enough people to get vaccinated and is concerned about hospital capacity.
“While Europe is once again the epicenter of the pandemic, no country or region is left out,” Tedros said Wednesday. “It is important for all countries to increase their capabilities now to ensure that the right measures are taken to prevent the worst effects of any future waves.”