Based on confirmed cases, 5.5 percent of the total European population had COVID-19, while 7 percent have completed a full series of vaccinations.
Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said in a video message: “The virus still has the potential to be devastating.”
“In fact, almost half of all COVID-19 infections in the region since January last year have been reported to WHO in the first four months of this year,” he added.
Shaping the course of the pandemic
Although the number of new cases fell significantly last week for the first time in two months, the infection rates in the entire region are still “extremely high”, said Dr. Kluge, who noted that individual and collective public health and social health policies remain “extremely high” in most countries. dominant factors in shaping the course of the pandemic ”.
It is crucial that national governments in the region slowly but surely vaccinate the most vulnerable.
“To date, around 215 million doses of vaccine have been administered,” said the WHO official.
Approximately 16 percent of the region’s population received a first dose of vaccine and 81 percent of healthcare workers in 28 countries in the region.
Hospital admissions are falling and mortality rates are falling in risk groups with the highest vaccination rates.
“Vaccines save lives and they will change the course of this pandemic and ultimately help stop it,” said Dr. Smart.
‘Clearest way to normal’
The WHO Regional Director said vaccines alone will not end the pandemic, but together with tough public health measures, they offer “the clearest path back to normal”.
He underlined the importance of continuing to share information, engage communities and maintain surveillance, and otherwise said, “We cannot identify new variants.”
“And without tracing back contacts, governments may have to reintroduce restrictive measures,” warned Dr. Smart.
Every year during European Immunization Week, WHO emphasizes that vaccines have been protecting against life-threatening diseases for over 200 years.
“Today they help protect against more than 20 diseases, from pneumonia to cervical cancer and now COVID-19,” said Dr. Smart.
Vaccines bring us closer to ending this pandemic, eradicating polio, and eradicating measles, cervical cancer, and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
And they help to bring the population into a world where there is no threat of antibiotic resistance.
“The fact that countries in the European Region averaged 96% of children scheduled to receive their first dose of measles vaccine in 2019 is evidence of the commitment of governments in the Region to eradicate measles,” he said.
“We now need this obligation to vaccinate against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
To stay on top of vaccine-preventable diseases, health systems need to ensure essential basic health care, including routine vaccination, while fighting the pandemic.
Dr. Kluge recalled that fluctuating vaccination rates led to more than 100,000 measles cases in 2019 and warned that if routine vaccination services were temporarily interrupted – as was the case a year ago in the European countries hardest hit by the first wave of COVID – outbreaks of Infectious diseases emerged may flare up below.
“Hard-earned success can quickly go by,” he said, calling for “high vaccination rates with routine vaccines.”
For vaccines to change the course of history again, they must be injected into people’s arms, he added.
“Ultimately, it is us, the people, who receive them, who let them work for the good of all.”