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Omicron proves we are not in control of Covid – only global action can stop this pandemic | Jeremy Farrar

IIt has been almost two years since we first heard of Covid-19, and a year since the first Covid vaccines were deployed. Yet this astounding progress is wasted. We’ve been drifting for months now, with richer countries taking a very blind inner focus, letting ourselves be lulled into thinking the worst of the pandemic was behind us. This variation reminds us all that we are staying closer to the start of the pandemic than to the end.

There is much to learn about Omicron variant. It remains to be seen whether or not this is a variant that changes the pandemic – a variant that really escapes our vaccines and treatments. Research will tell us more in the days and weeks to come, and we need to monitor and track the data closely while giving the brilliant science teams time to get the answers. Although I am very worried about countries with limited access to vaccines, I cautiously hope that our current vaccines will continue to protect us against serious illness and death, if we are fully vaccinated.

But that may not be true for the next variant.

The more this virus continues to spread in largely unvaccinated populations around the world, the more likely it is that a variant that can overcome our vaccines and treatments will emerge. If that happens, we could be close to square one.

Importantly, for now, urgent things have not changed: wearing masks indoors, increasing testing, social distancing, isolation if positive (with support to do so) and vaccination will all help reduce transmission and protect against disease. We will probably never know for sure how and where Omicron originated, but we must continue to protect the most vulnerable as a priority, including the immunocompromised, the elderly and healthcare workers.

It is understandable that countries are moving towards use boosters to protect their populations. This must be done in parallel with securing a global vaccine supply. The offer is finally increasing, and, with political will, it can be achieved. Rich countries, which have the majority of the existing supply, must share more doses in the coming months.

The Covid-19 has already killed millions of people and changed the lives of all of us, but we must do all we can to avoid a return to lockdowns – a sign that public health has failed. World leaders, by continuing to ignore warnings and focusing only on their national populations, are playing with fire and endangering our hard-earned progress. It is amazing that the ACT-Accelerator has yet to advocate for the urgently needed funding to end this pandemic.

This political drift and lack of leadership prolongs the pandemic for everyone, with governments unwilling to tackle inequitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments. We haven’t got a handle on this pandemic yet – Omicron or an even worse variant could come at any time. There were wonderful speeches, warm words, but not the actions needed to ensure equitable access to what we know works and would end the pandemic.

Even before we learned of the existence of this new variant, the overall picture was already deeply disturbing. The fourth wave we see in Europe and southern Africa soon touching the United States, Central and South America and Asia. As the UK cedes the G7 presidency to Germany and Italy cedes the G20 to Indonesia later this month, it is crucial that world leaders see this for what it is: still the most urgent threat facing our world.

We will only end this pandemic by working together globally and sharing access to all vital public health tools needed to reduce transmission everywhere and save lives. It is astounding and utterly frustrating that two years later governments still have not woken up and realized that it was in their enlightened and shared self-interest.

Acting in the national interest will only perpetuate this crisis, trapping us in a cycle of waves, new variations, lives lost and continued economic and societal disruption.

No country should believe that they are safe just because they have vaccinated their own populations. We can and must do better than that.

Dr Jeremy Farrar is Director of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation

Omicron proves we are not in control of Covid – only global action can stop this pandemic | Jeremy Farrar

Source link Omicron proves we are not in control of Covid – only global action can stop this pandemic | Jeremy Farrar

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