Vaccines are vital not only for saving lives, but also for preventing the long-term effects of COVID-19

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Media Briefing by DDDWHO DG on Covid19
Vaccines are vital not only for
saving lives, but also for preventing
the long-term effects of COVID-19

As you know, the independent expert team to study the origins of the COVID-19 virus has completed its trip to China. This was an international team comprising experts from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Qatar, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Viet Nam. The team also included experts from WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organization for Animal Health.

Meanwhile, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 globally has declined for the fourth week in a row, and the number of deaths also fell for the second consecutive week.These declines appear to be due to countries implementing public health measures more stringently.We should all be encouraged, but complacency is as dangerous as the virus itself. Now is not the time for any country to relax measures, or for any individual to let down their guard.Every life that is lost now is all the more tragic as vaccines are beginning to be rolled out.

Alongside traditional public health measures, how quickly we can collectively expand vaccine manufacturing and roll out vaccines to all countries will determine how soon we control the pandemic. At the beginning of the year I issued a global challenge to ensure that vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries within the first 100 days of 2021.

Some people didn’t think it was possible to produce a vaccine so quickly, but it was, and very historic. Never in the history of the world have we developed vaccines in less than a year of the emergence of a new virus.Now some people say that vaccinating the world is not possible. They’re dead wrong. As Nelson Mandela, Madiba, said; it always seems impossible until it’s done. Vaccines are vital not only for saving lives, but also for preventing the long-term effects of COVID-19, which we are only beginning to understand.WHO’s work in this area focuses on three key needs for these patients: recognition, research and rehabilitation.

Earlier this week, WHO held a global meeting of patients, clinicians and other stakeholders to advance our understanding of what is officially called post-COVID-19 condition, or “long COVID”.This was the first in a series of meetings, and focused on working towards an agreed clinical description of the condition, which will be important for clinicians to diagnose and treat it.This illness affects patients with both severe and mild COVID-19.Part of the challenge is that patients with long COVID can have a range of different symptoms that can be persistent or can come and go.

Given the scale of the pandemic, we expect many people to be affected by post COVID-19 condition.And, of course, the best way to prevent long COVID is to prevent COVID-19 in the first place.

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