This photograph taken on July 3, 2020, shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) at their headquarters in Geneva, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.
A coronavirus vaccine this winter won’t help countries beat back the current wave of Covid-19 infections sweeping across Europe and North America and overwhelming hospitals with patients, the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday.
“We’re not there with vaccines yet. We will get there, but we’re not there,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, during a live Q&A event. “And many countries are going through this wave, and they’re going to go through this wave and continue through this wave without vaccines.”
Weeks of growing Covid-19 cases have forced countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany, to adopt strict actions to curb the virus’ spread, shuttering nonessential businesses and advising residents to stay home as much as possible.
Those efforts appear to be working so far, with Europe reporting a 10% decline in cases over the past week “for the first time in over three months,” according to WHO’s latest situation report published on Tuesday.
Coronavirus deaths, which typically lag reported cases by weeks, increased 18% in the region over that same period, however. In the Americas, cases were up 41% for the week and deaths climbed by 11%, according to WHO’s report.
The outcomes of severely-ill patients could get worse in some countries with overburdened health systems since health-care workers are forced to ration their time and attention, Ryan said.
“Not only do we have full hospitals, but in those hospitals, patients won’t do so well,” he said. “There’s only one way to stop more people from needing to go to the hospital, and that’s to stop more people getting exposed and getting infected.”
This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates.