Geneva, Switzerland | Xinhua | The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries to prioritize vaccination for health workers in the light of its new paper estimating that 115,000 died of coronavirus between January 2020 and May 2021.
Although data from 119 countries suggests that on average two in five health workers globally are fully vaccinated, there are nonetheless huge differences across regions and economic groups, said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing on Thursday.
For example, WHO’s data shows that less than one in ten health workers in Africa has been fully vaccinated, while in most high-income countries more than 80 percent of health workers are fully vaccinated.
According to the International Council of Nurses (ICN), WHO had been informed by governments of less than 7,000 COVID-related healthcare worker deaths during that period. However, WHO and ICN analyzed this information, and arrived at an estimate of 115,000 deaths among health workers globally – which ICN warns is a conservative estimate.
“The backbone of every health system is its workforce — the people who deliver the services on which we all rely at some point in our lives. The pandemic is a powerful demonstration of just how much we rely on health workers, and how vulnerable we all are when the people who protect our health are themselves unprotected,” said Dr. Tedros.
To protect health workers around the world, WHO and its partners have called on all countries to improve monitoring and reporting of infections and deaths among these workers; to ensure their safe and healthy working conditions, and give them priority for COVID-19 vaccines.
The WHO chief has vowed to push the G20 countries at the upcoming summit in Rome, Italy, to fulfill their vaccine-sharing commitments immediately. This means prioritizing vaccine contracts with COVAX, a WHO-led international COVID-19 vaccine campaign, and partners.
He also urged these countries to share know-how, technology, and licenses, and waive intellectual property rights concerning the vaccines.