WHO advisors say COVID-19 pandemic far from over

Handwashing station at refugee camp
Handwashing station at refugee camp

CDC Global, Peter Mndanyi / Flickr cc

After reviewing the latest COVID-19 developments last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency committee said the pandemic is far from over, though countries are making progress in rolling out vaccines and treatments.

The group of outside advisors met on Oct 22 by video conference for the ninth time and unanimously agreed that the situation still warrants a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), which was declared on Jan 30, 2020. The group typically meets every 3 months or more often as needed.

Concerns remain about Africa's access

In a statement released today on its deliberations, the group raised concerns about Africa's challenges in accessing enough vaccines, tests, and treatments and in monitoring COVID-19 spread, given that many countries have gaps in lab capacity and genomic sequencing.

The committee also said there's a critical need for all countries to use all tools at their disposal to ease the pandemic's many impacts.

Committee members modified and extended most of their temporary recommendations but added a new one that supports uptake of WHO-recommended treatments by addressing access and affordability.

More global headlines

  • An independent monitoring board set up by the WHO and the World Bank in 2018 to track the world's outbreak and emergency readiness in the wake of West Africa's Ebola outbreak detailed the failures in the world's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board—in its new report—said the failures stemmed from inequality and inaction and were worsened by political division. It called for new efforts to address future threats, including an international agreement on health preparedness and a global summit of health leaders to tackle the topic.

  • In vaccine developments, the Germany-based BioNTech, which developed the mRNA vaccine marketed by Pfizer, said today that it will build a vaccine production facility in Rwanda next year, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the Moderna booster, and China signaled that it will begin vaccinating children as young as 3 years old.

  • Meanwhile, in outbreak developments, the Chinese city of Lanzhou—the capital of Gansu province and home to 4 million people—is on lockdown after six local cases were detected, according to The Guardian.

  • In Europe, Russia and Ukraine—two Eastern European countries battling COVID-19 surges—reported record daily highs for deaths today.

  • The global total today climbed to 244,318,680 cases, with 4,960,323 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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