Delivering his first message of the brand new 12 months, Dr. Hans Kluge confused that with out vaccines, the dying toll on the continent “might have been round 4 million, presumably even larger.”
Greater than 2.5 million COVID-19 deaths, and 277 million confirmed instances, have been reported within the huge WHO European Area, which includes 53 international locations stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
A ‘important resolution’
Analysis of 34 international locations confirmed that most individuals whose lives have been saved by vaccines, 90 per cent, have been over 60.
The vaccines decreased deaths by 57 per cent within the interval between their rollout in December 2020 by March 2023, with the primary booster doses alone saving an estimated 700,000 lives.
“At this time, there are 1.4 million folks in our area – most of them aged – who’re round to get pleasure from life with their family members as a result of they took the important resolution to be vaccinated towards COVID-19,” said Dr. Kluge, talking from Copenhagen.
“That is the facility of vaccines. The proof is irrefutable,” he added.
Vaccination should proceed
COVID-19 charges in Europe stay elevated however are reducing. WHO recommends that folks at highest danger of the illness ought to proceed to be re-vaccinated six to 12 months after their most up-to-date dose.
This class contains older individuals, frontline well being employees, pregnant girls, and people who find themselves immunocompromised or have important persistent medical circumstances.
In the meantime, WHO is at present seeing widespread circulation of respiratory viruses like influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and measles within the European area.
Flu charges rising
RSV charges peaked earlier than the brand new 12 months and at the moment are declining, Dr. Kluge reported, and influenza charges are quickly rising, with a probable surge anticipated over the approaching weeks.
There was a almost 60 per cent improve in reported hospitalizations for the flu over the previous two weeks and a 21 per cent improve in ICU admissions, in comparison with the earlier two weeks.
Flu instances elevated four-fold between November and December, with 38 international locations reporting the beginning of the seasonal influenza epidemic. These most affected by extreme illness are folks aged 65 and older and the very younger.
“We’re involved about reviews of localised pressures on hospitals and overcrowding in emergency rooms, resulting from a confluence of circulating respiratory viruses,” he stated.
Variants and vigilance
Dr. Kluge confused that though COVID-19 infections charges are broadly reducing throughout Europe, the scenario can quickly change within the face of the brand new variant of curiosity, JN.1, now the commonest variant reported globally.
“Although there’s no present proof to recommend the JN.1 variant is extra extreme, the unpredictable nature of this virus exhibits how important it’s that international locations proceed to watch for any new variants,” he stated.
As many international locations have decreased or stopped reporting COVID-19 knowledge to WHO, Dr. Kluge underscored the necessity for continued surveillance because the illness “is right here to remain”.
“We all know the right way to hold ourselves and others protected, whether or not from COVID-19 or different respiratory infections,” he stated, referring to measures akin to staying residence if sick and sporting masks in settings akin to hospitals or crowded locations.
Noting that “well being is slipping from the political agenda”, Dr. Kluge voiced deep concern over the failure to handle the “ticking time-bomb dealing with our well being and care workforce”.
“As well being techniques come beneath pressure, we’re reminded that we could also be unprepared for something out-of-the-ordinary, such because the emergence of a brand new, extra extreme COVID-19 variant or a but unknown pathogen,” he warned, urging leaders to point out “demonstrable help” for well being employees.