World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday that Europe remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting 2 million new cases last week, the region’s highest number since the pandemic began. 

At a briefing in Geneva, the WHO chief said the region also reported nearly 27,000 deaths last week, more than half of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide.

Tedros said COVID-19 is surging in countries with lower vaccination rates in Eastern Europe, but also in countries with some of the world’s highest vaccination rates in Western Europe. He said it is a reminder that while vaccines reduce the risk of hospitalization, severe disease and death, they do not replace the need for other precautions.

Tedros said that while vaccines reduced transmission of the coronavirus, they do not fully prevent it.

On the subject of vaccines, the WHO chief once again spoke about the injustices of COVID-19 vaccine inequities and how wealthy nations are neglecting low-income nations in the distribution of the drugs. Tedros said every day, there are six times more boosters administered globally than primary doses in low-income countries. 

He once again urged nations with stockpiled vaccine to donate it to the WHO-managed COVAX global vaccine cooperative to distribute to the developing world. He said that COVAX works when given the chance, having delivered almost 500 million doses to 144 countries and territories. 

Tedros said the majority of countries are prepared to distribute vaccines to their people, but they need the doses. He said there are only two countries that have not started vaccinating their populations — Eritrea and North Korea.

The WHO has set a goal of fully vaccinating 40 percent of the population of every country in the world by the end of this year. 


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