The World Health Organization (WHO) was “very concerned” this Monday, August 30, about the rise in coronavirus infections registered in Europe in recent weeks, which together with the low vaccination rate in priority groups in some countries makes It is necessary to promote the immunization process in the continent.
Of the 53 member states of the WHO European region, 33 registered a 10% increase in the incidence of new cases in the last 14 days and several are seeing an increase in hospital admissions and deaths, which could amount to 236,000 between now and December 1, according to the latest projection.
The European region has reported 64 million cases and 1.3 million deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to WHO figures, which attributes the rise in cases to the greater presence of the more contagious Delta variant; relaxation of restrictions and increased travel.
“We must be firm to maintain the multiple lines of protection, including vaccination and masks. Vaccines are the way to reopen societies and stabilize economies, “said the director of WHO-Europe, Hans Kluge, at a press conference.
Kluge highlighted that almost half of the population of the WHO European region has completed vaccination, but regretted that in the last six weeks the process has slowed down due to lack of access to vaccines in some countries and lack of acceptance in others. .
“There is a clear need to increase production, share doses and improve access to vaccines in member states to be able to offer a complete series of vaccines to the population,” Kluge said.
The director of WHO-Europe considers it a priority that health authorities examine in detail what determines the degree of acceptance of vaccines in different population groups and then develop concrete strategies at the community level to promote it.
The third dose is not a “fancy” booster.
The WHO urged those countries with excess vaccine to share them with others, with special attention to those in Eastern Europe and Africa, but also defended the importance of providing a third dose to risk groups.
“A third dose is not a fancy booster taken from someone waiting for the first. It’s a way to keep the most vulnerable safe, ”Kluge said.
Kluge was nonetheless cautious, adding that there is still insufficient evidence on the booster dose, although more and more studies point to its effectiveness for risk groups.
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Denmark, an exception in the European framework
The head of WHO-Europe warned of the importance of national authorities not rushing when lifting restrictions and considered an exception to be the case of Denmark, where masks are not mandatory in any context for weeks and whose government will lift on the 10th the remaining restrictions.
Kluge alluded to the fact that this country, in which just over 71% of the total population has completed the guideline, is “a champion in the acceptance of the vaccine” and that it has the highest level of population that relies on immunization.
He also mentioned the strategy of massive tests and sequencing of tests that the Danish health authorities have been following for months as another key and recalled that they do not rule out establishing local restrictions if the contagion is triggered again.
Denmark, which has one of the lowest mortality rates from covid-19 in Europe, considers the epidemic controlled, despite the fact that the incidence of new cases in the previous two weeks is 232.18, according to the latest report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Call to keep schools open
The WHO reiterated its call for European governments to open schools so that children can follow face-to-face classes in the next academic year 2021-2022, to which it has recommended to apply preventive measures to minimize the risk of contagion of coronavirus.
Among these measures, the WHO mentions offering teachers and other staff the possibility of getting vaccinated, which should also be done by schoolchildren over twelve years of age who suffer from any disease or condition that makes them particularly vulnerable in case of contracting covid-19 .
Ensuring ventilation inside the classrooms, reducing class sizes as much as possible, maintaining physical distance and having students and employees take regular tests are other recommendations.
“Our children have suffered a lot in the last twenty months, especially those who were vulnerable or could not benefit from digital learning. Unlike a year ago, we are now in a position to keep them safe, ”Kluge said.