A World Health Organization official said on Tuesday (December 8) that only public health measures, not vaccines, can prevent a new surge of COVID-19 cases as the first vaccines are administered in Britain.
“Vaccines are a great tool, they will be very helpful, but the effect of the vaccine in providing some kind of immune barrier is still far off,” said WHO spokeswoman, Margaret Harris in response to a question at a Geneva briefing about whether the vaccines would come in time to prevent a third wave of cases in Europe.
“The things that must be done to prevent an increase, an uptick, a surge or whatever you want to call it are the public health measures,” she added.
A 90-year-old grandmother became the world’s first person to receive a fully-tested COVID-19 shot on Tuesday, as Britain began mass-vaccinating its people in a global drive that poses one of the biggest logistical challenges in peacetime history.
However, the WHO does not foresee mandatory vaccinations being introduced around the world to stem the spread of the coronavirus, officials said on Monday (December 7).
Information campaigns and making vaccines available to priority groups such as hospital workers and the elderly would be more effective, the WHO said, as the global death toll has topped 1.5 million, according to Reuters calculations.
Britain begins its vaccine program this week and others are likely to follow soon, so authorities are seeking to reassure people of vaccines’ safety and efficacy in order to get a critical mass to take them in the face of what experts say are conspiracy theories entering the mainstream.
“I don’t think we envisage any countries creating a mandate for vaccinations,” Kate O’Brien, WHO’s director of immunization vaccines and biologicals, told a news conference, adding that there may be some situations where it is highly recommended for people to be vaccinated, such as for staff in hospitals.
The WHO was still waiting to start discussions with the incoming Joe Biden administration in the United States, which was suffering a “punishing” pandemic, Ryan said. Under President Donald Trump, top donor the United States announced its withdrawal from the body.
The WHO is also still waiting to visit China to study the origins of the coronavirus. “We are planning and hope to be on the ground as soon as possible,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.