The advent of COVID-19 vaccines should not tempt countries to relax efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, World Health Organization authorities said Friday, citing their particular concern that the situation in Brazil could spread to other countries.
“If you think we’ve already left this behind, we haven’t,” Mike Ryan, WHO’s leading emergency expert, said during an online press conference. “Countries are going to fall in a third and fourth wave if we’re not careful,” he added.
Record COVID-19 deaths have been reported this week in Brazil and its hospital system is on the brink of collapse, partly from a more contagious variant of the virus that was first identified there.
Globally, the number of COVID-19 cases reversed a downward trend of six weeks last week despite the delivery of millions of doses of vaccines in recent weeks, according to WHO data.
“Now is not the time for Brazil or anywhere else to relax,” Ryan added. “The advent of vaccines is a time of great hope, but it is also potentially a time when concentration can be lost.”
WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the epidemic in Brazil as “very, very worrying” and warned of possible regional spread.
“If Brazil is not serious, it will continue to affect the entire neighborhood and beyond,” he said.