The roll-out of coronavirus vaccines to fight the pandemic will not by itself eliminate the deadly coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.
The WHO warned against complacency and what it said was an erroneous belief that because vaccines are on the near-horizon, the crisis is over.
“Progress on vaccines gives us all a lift and we can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, WHO is concerned that there is a growing perception that the COVID-19 pandemic is over,” he said.
Tedros said the pandemic still had a long way to run and that decisions made by citizens and governments would determine its course in the short run and when the pandemic would ultimately end.
“We know it’s been a hard year and people are tired, but in hospitals that are running at or over capacity it’s the hardest it can possibly be,” he said.
“The truth is that at present, many places are witnessing very high transmission of the COVID-19 virus, which is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers.”
Britain approved Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, jumping ahead of the rest of the world in the race to begin mass inoculations.
The move raised hopes that the tide could soon turn against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million people globally, hammered the world economy and upended normal life for billions since it emerged in Wuhan, China, a year ago.
According to the WHO’s overview of candidate vaccines, 51 are currently being tested on humans, 13 of which have reached final-stage mass testing.
A further 163 candidate vaccines are being developed in laboratories with a view to eventual human trials.