Build momentum to ‘finish the job’ and end COVID-19 pandemic, urges Guterres |

Mr. Guterres celebrated the increase in vaccination coverage around the world, particularly among high-risk populations, and the fact that, on average, countries have vaccinated around three-quarters of healthcare workers and the elderly. .

COVID-19 measures are increasingly integrated into routine health programs, and new antiviral drugs are about to become available.

Gaps remain

However, coverage and protection gaps remain, Guterres said. Booster vaccination coverage is minimal in all countries and vaccination rates are low in the poorest countries. He also warned of a “phantom pandemic” of vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, which must be tackled.

The UN chief also called for a drastic improvement in testing rates and for countries to ensure they are fully prepared for future pandemics. “Making progress to close those gaps is what it’s all about today,” Guterres said. “It’s time to build political momentum to finish the job on COVID-19.”

UNICEF/Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi

A health worker delivers COVID-19 vaccines, donated through the COVAX facility, to a health post in Nepal

“We have never been better placed to end COVID-19”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the United Nations health agency WHO, must have made many pessimistic remarks since the start of the pandemic but, at Friday’s event, he was able to send a remarkably positive message.

With so many people vaccinated and deaths from the virus reported at the lowest levels since the start of the pandemic, the international community, he said, was “never better placed to end COVID-19.” as a global health emergency”.

However, Tedros echoed the concerns raised by Mr. Guterres and referenced a report, released Thursday by the WHO’s Accelerating Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Council, which found that most low- and middle-income countries have virtually no access. new antivirals.

As the accelerator moves forward, delivering nearly 1.5 billion doses of vaccine and helping 68 new countries achieve at least 40% vaccination coverage, there is still a long way to go, Tedros said: “We don’t We’re not there yet, but the end is in sight.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on children's education

© UNICEF//Chris Farber

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on children’s education

“Step by step, we are progressing”

The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, has played a key role in ensuring that vaccines reach those who need them, especially the most vulnerable.

In his opening remarks, Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, reminded attendees of the event some of his agency’s achievements in tackling the health crisis.

These include the administration of more than 12.4 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines; funding and implementing the largest ultra-cold chain scale-up in history (UNICEF has funded and delivered 800 ultra-cold chain freezers to nearly 70 countries in 2021); and shipping more than 1.2 billion pieces of personal protective equipment to protect frontline and healthcare workers and others in 142 countries.

“Step by step we are making progress,” Ms Russell said, “but we need to keep the momentum going to protect the world from future surges and new variants. Because as long as coverage remains inequitable, the pandemic will continue, as will the grave risks it poses to children.”

The UNICEF director drew the audience’s attention to some of the ripple effects of the pandemic on children who she said were among its greatest victims, having suffered devastating effects on health, education and welfare.

Routine jabs drop

Routine vaccinations for other diseases have been significantly disrupted; Ms Russell pointed to WHO and UNICEF data which shows that 25 million children have not received the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis – a marker of vaccination coverage in general – in 2021.

“This is the largest and most sustained decline in routine childhood immunization rates in a generation,” she warned, “which could undo 30 years of progress if we don’t reverse course. way”.

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