WHO releases global COVID-19 vaccination strategy update to reach unprotected

WHO releases global COVID-19 vaccination strategy update to reach unprotected

  • The global vaccination drive for COVID-19 is the largest and fastest in history, but many of those most at risk remain unprotected – only 28% of older people and 37% of health workers in low-income countries have received the main vaccine series and most have not received booster doses.
  • Health care workers, over 60s and other risk groups should be approached as priorities to reach the 70% coverage target.
  • The WHO strategy update increases the targets of vaccinating 100% of health workers and 100% of the highest-risk populations with primary and booster doses, with the aim of reducing deaths, maintaining open societies and ensuring the functioning of savings as the transmission continues.
  • While vaccines have saved countless lives, they have not substantially reduced the spread of COVID-19. Innovation is needed to develop new vaccines that significantly reduce transmission, are easier to administer, and provide broader and longer-lasting protection.

WHO today published an update of the Global Vaccination Strategy for COVID-19, in response to the spread of Omicron subvariables, progress in vaccine evidence and lessons from the global vaccination programme.

In their first year on the market, the COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to have saved 19.8 million lives. Through unprecedentedly large and rapid worldwide circulation, more than 12 billion doses have been administered worldwide, to almost every country in the world, with countries reaching 60% of their population on average.

However, only 28% of the elderly population and 37% of health workers in low-income countries have been vaccinated in their primary series. 27 of the WHO Member States have not yet initiated a booster or booster dose program, 11 of which are low-income countries.

The strategy aims to use primary and booster doses to reduce deaths and serious illnesses in order to protect health systems, societies and economies. On the way to achieving the 70% vaccination target, countries should prioritize achieving the key targets of vaccinating 100% of health care workers and 100% of the most vulnerable groups, including older populations (above of 60 years) and those who are immunocompromised or have underlying conditions.

“Even where 70% vaccination coverage is achieved, if significant numbers of health workers, the elderly and other at-risk groups remain unvaccinated, deaths will continue, health systems will remain under pressure and the global recovery will be at risk,” WHO said . Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Vaccinating all those most at risk is the single best way to save lives, protect health systems and keep societies and economies open.”

To ensure that vaccines reach the highest priority groups, the strategy emphasizes the need to measure progress in vaccinating these groups and develop targeted approaches to reach them. Approaches include using local data and engaging communities to sustain demand for vaccines, establishing systems to vaccinate adults, and reaching more displaced people through humanitarian response.

The strategy also aims to accelerate the development and ensure equitable access to improved vaccines to significantly reduce transmission as a top priority, but also to achieve durable, generally protective immunity.

Current vaccines were designed to prevent serious illness and death, which they have succeeded in doing, saving millions of lives. However, they have not significantly reduced transmission. As the virus continues to circulate widely, new and dangerous variants emerge, including some that reduce the effectiveness of vaccines. It is fundamental that we continue to invest in research and development to make vaccines, such as nasal spray products, more effective and easier to administer.

Other vital actions that need to be taken include: the equitable distribution of production facilities across regions and the support of robust vaccine delivery programs. WHO will continue to work with COVAX and the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership (CoVDP) partners to support countries with roll-out, such as by bundling the COVID-19 vaccination with other health interventions.

Note to editors:

The global vaccination strategy against COVID-19 in a changing world: The July 2022 update can be read in full here.

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