Last March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 pandemic a public health emergency of international concern, the highest level of alarm under international law. Since then, the virus did not spare any community or society. It has mutated and spread in waves globally, infecting over 131 million and killing 2.8 million people as of April 6, 2021, according to John Hopkins Covid Center. There are reports of skyrocketing cases in many countries leading to lockdowns once again. The USA leads with 30.78 million cases, followed by Brazil and India, with over 13 million and 12.68 million cases, respectively. The other countries with a high number of cases include France, with over 4.89 million cases; Russia, with over 4.53 million cases; the United Kingdom, with 4.37 million cases; Italy, with 3.67 million and Turkey, with 3.5 million cases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has touched nearly every aspect of life, causing devastating socio-economic impacts, structural and entrenched discrimination, and other gaps in access to medical care, vaccination, and a healthy environment that have burdened governments, hospitals, businesses and the general population with unprecedented challenges such as:
The COVID-19 vaccines have been a game-changer for combating the international pandemic with Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and India coming to the market with vaccines. While the Pfizer-BioNTech RNA-based vaccine was the first one to be approved for use in many countries, Cuba is developing one for a global pandemic for the first time.
Reactions, side effects, rare adverse events related to these various vaccines are continually monitored by the COVID-19 subcommittee of the WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS), which has published a report on the Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness and impact. Other studies have also found that:
COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing infections as well as symptoms, including in children and against many of the varieties of the virus but not the first Covid vaccine shot alone;
During the first quarter of 2021, 5% of the global population has been fully vaccinated, with most vaccines are going to the wealthiest countries, according to an analysis of data collected by the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Nevertheless, according to a study, vaccinations alone won't have a major impact on the fourth wave of the virus. Masks and good ventilation systems are also important in reducing the airborne spread of COVID-19. As well as other socio-economic and environmental factors which are being collaboratively studied by Connecticut College (USA), Ashoka University (India), Ashesi University (Ghana), Morningside College at The Chinese University in Hong Kong (China), and The Higher School of Economics (Russia).
With the help of these various studies, vaccination and continued implementation of public health and social measures are expected to eventually bring an end to the pandemic. Collectively, they will influence the global measures that are applied to close the socio-economic gaps, to build back a greener, post COVID-19 reality that is better, more resilient, just, and sustainable. These are the themes for this year’s World Immunization Week and the Day for Safety and Health at Work (April 28) which are celebrated during the last week of April.