End of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, says WHO

The world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, urging nations to keep up their efforts against the virus that has killed over six million people.

“We are not there yet. But the end is in sight,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a virtual press conference.

Deaths from COVID-19 last week were the lowest since March 2020, the U.N. agency reported.

While the WHO expects continued future waves of COVID-19 infections, the world had tools in hand such as vaccines and antivirals to prevent serious infections, said Maria Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19.

Monkeypox cases, too, were on a downtrend but Tedros urged countries to keep up the fight.

“As with COVID-19, this is not the time to relax or let down our guard.”

“Take whatever COVID vaccine you can get,” says head of EU drugs watchdog

People in Europe should take whatever COVID-19 booster is available to them in the coming months, Emer Cooke, Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said in a Reuters Next Newsmaker interview, ahead of an expected autumn rise in infections.

She said different countries across the bloc would likely have different autumn booster campaign timings and strategies, but it was important to remember the pandemic was not over and people should continue to prioritize getting protected.

“My message is have confidence in whatever vaccines are offered to you,” she said.

The EU drug regulator initially cleared so-called bivalent shots directed at the BA.1 version of Omicron and the original virus first detected in China, developed by Moderna MRNA.O and the team of Pfizer PFE.N and BioNTech 22UAy.DE.

Then on Monday this week, the EMA recommended a COVID-19 booster designed to combat the currently circulating Omicron BA.4/5 subvariants.

The go-ahead for the BA.4/5 shot was based on lab analysis, while testing on humans continues, and results from tests of the similar BA.1 shot on people allowed for encouraging conclusions to be drawn for the BA.4/5 vaccine, the EMA said.

In contrast, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration insisted it was only interested in vaccines targeting BA.4/5. Earlier this month, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna secured U.S. authorization for those.

Some health professionals have voiced concern over the roster of vaccines available to people, many of whom are being asked to line up for their fourth or fifth shot.

In an interview with weekly WirtschaftsWoche on Friday, the head of the German association of family doctors, Ulrich Weigeldt, criticised the approval of two different types of variant-adapted vaccines.

“Patients are confused and have a lot of questions about the new vaccines. General practitioners have to spend a lot of time advising patients,” he was quoted as saying.


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