As U.S. nears Omicron peak, global vaccine gap causes fear of new variants

As the number of Omicron infections appear to be past their peak in many U.S. locations, some experts are cautiously suggesting the COVID-19 pandemic may soon recede to a more manageable level, but others warn that the large population of unvaccinated worldwide means we still face the risk of new variants.

“The pandemic is far from over, but I am hopeful we can end the emergency phase in 2022 and address other health threats that urgently require our attention,” Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said in a statement Monday.

Omicron is still raging. In the U.S, there was a daily average of 601,427 new cases and 2,323 deaths in the last week, the Washington Post reported today. But the incidence of COVID-19, which is currently almost all from the Omicron variant, appears to have peaked in the Northeast and parts of the Upper Midwest of the United States, as well as other regions.

“What we would hope is that, as we get into the next weeks to month or so, we’ll see throughout the entire country the level of infection get to below what I call that area of control,” Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Health told ABC’s “This Week,” explaining that by “control” he meant infections “don’t disrupt society.”

In a a commentary in the Lancet, Christopher J.L. Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle predicted that, soon, “COVID-19 will become another recurrent disease that health systems and societies will have to manage.”

New variants still a worry

Before we can declare victory, however, many officials warn that we need to increase vaccination levels in all parts of the globe.

According to Our World in Data, 60.8% of the people in the world have received one COVID-19 vaccine dose, but “only 9.8% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.”

In his statement on Monday, The WHO”s Dr. Kluge warned that “Too many people who need the vaccine remain unvaccinated. This is helping to drive transmission, prolonging the pandemic and increasing the likelihood of new variants.”

Also on Monday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a WHO executive board meeting that uneven global vaccination rates cause a risk. “It’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame,” Dr. Tedros said, according to the Associated Press. “On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”

Dr. Tedros maintained that “we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency, and we can do it this year,” according to the AP, but he said to do this, we must expand global vaccination efforts to reach the WHO’s target of vaccinating 70% of the population of each country by the middle of this year.

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