The Irish man was speaking as he accepted the Sir Charles A Cameron Award for Population Health from the Royal College of Surgeons
It is premature and unrealistic to the think the pandemic will be over by the end of the year, World Health Organisation (WHO) official Dr Mike Ryan has warned.
Irish man Dr Ryan, who is Executive Director of the WHO Emergencies Programme, said that vaccinating the most vulnerable people, including healthcare workers, would help alleviate tragedy and fear as well as relieve the pressure on hospitals from treating so many Covid-19 patients.
However, he stressed that the virus is very much in “control”.
“It will be very premature, and I think unrealistic, to think that we’re going to finish with this virus by the end of the year.”
Dr Ryan, who was speaking in Geneva, said: “If the vaccines begin to impact not only on death and not only on hospitalisation but have a significant impact on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe we will accelerate towards controlling the pandemic.”
Dr Ryan was this week awarded the Sir Charles A Cameron Award for Population Health by the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin.
Speaking at the event, he warned about the level of misinformation spreading about the virus. He also said the impact of the pandemic will resonate for decades.
Dr Ryan spoke of the sadness of people dying from coronavirus without their family and only a health worker in goggles by their bedside.
He paid tribute to health workers who “lived in terror” of bringing the virus home to their family.
“We have an epidemic and infodemic,” he said. This spread of misinformation was around before social media and was similar to the kind of untruth disseminated during the HIV era, he suggested.
“The community is the first line of defence. If they don’t have the right information, and have a menu of disinformation, no amount of science can push a community to do the necessary actions.”
Dr Ryan has previously called on better-off countries to share vaccines with the Third World.
The first Covid-19 vaccination campaigns in Africa using Covax – a global initiative aimed at equitable access to vaccines – began this week in Ghana and Ivory Coast. The aim is to provide donor-funded vaccines to lower-income countries.
The campaigns in Ghana and Ivory Coast follow deliveries to both countries last week with Ghana getting 600,000 doses on February 24 and Ivory Coast getting 504,000 doses two days later.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General said: ”This is only the beginning of what Covax was set up to achieve.”
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