European authorities have recorded an increase in the number of coronavirus infections for the third consecutive week as the World Health Organization (WHO) urged caution at a Wednesday briefing after previous warnings that the pandemic could last until 2022.
Among the WHO's six regions of member states, only Europe has experienced a rising number of coronavirus infections, researchers revealed in an epidemiological update that was published on Tuesday. Over the weekend that ended Sunday, the region had more than 1.3 million reported infections nationwide. The numbers represented an increase of 7% from the past week.
Europe's Surging Coronavirus Cases
The executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program, Dr. Mike Ryan, said during a Q&A, streamed on social media channels of the health agency, that the incident marked three weeks of progressive increase of infections. The official noted that while global case numbers were going down, Europe has actually experienced a surge in infections three weeks in a row.
Authorities said that Europe's worrying situation is brought about by surges in Czechia, Hungary, and Poland. Ryan said coronavirus infections in these regions have shot up 50% in the last week alone. The medical professional warned that since winter is fast approaching and the pandemic already severely affecting the healthcare systems in various nations, the availability of intensive care beds has dropped significantly, CNBC reported.
The situation comes as the WHO warned that the coronavirus pandemic could "go on a year longer than it needs to" due to the lack of coronavirus vaccine supply in some poorer countries. A senior leader at the health agency, Dr. Bruce Aylward, said the circumstances will result in the pandemic easily running through 2022.
Authorities revealed that less than 5% of Africans have been vaccinated, which is severely lagging behind other nations, many of which have recorded 40% vaccination rates. The UK has also delivered more than 10 million vaccines to other countries that need the treatment. Officials pledged to donate a total of 100 million vaccines to other nations.
Availability of Vaccines
In an appeal, Aylward urged wealthier countries to give up their spots in the queue for vaccines to give way to the lowest-income countries. The official argued that wealthy countries needed to "stocktake" and monitor their status compared to their donation commitments at summits such as the G7 meeting, BBC reported.
The situation comes as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to administer booster shots. The decision came after unanimous voting by a committee of independent advisers last week.
The FDA also authorized the use of a booster shot on an individual that has received a different vaccine brand. For example, if a resident has completed the two-dose regimen with the Pfizer vaccine, they could receive a booster shot from the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
"The available data suggest waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated. The availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease," FDA acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said, NPR reported.