Covid may have killed more than 180,000 health workers, says WHO

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The WHO said on Thursday that 80,000 to 180,000 healthcare workers may have been killed by Covid-19 as of May this year, insisting that they should be prioritized for vaccination.

The World Health Organization said the fact that millions of health workers remain unvaccinated is an “indictment” against the countries and companies that control the world’s supply of doses.

A WHO document estimated that of the 135 million health workers on the planet, “between 80,000 and 180,000 health and health workers could have died from Covid-19 in the period between January 2020 and May 2021.”

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said healthcare workers should be among the first to be immunized against the disease as he criticized global inequity in vaccine deployment.

“Data from 119 countries suggest that, on average, two out of every five healthcare and healthcare workers worldwide are fully vaccinated. But of course, that average hides huge differences,” he said.

“In Africa, fewer than one in 10 health workers are fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, in most high-income countries, more than 80 percent of health workers are fully vaccinated.”

He added: “We call on all countries to ensure that all health and care workers in each country are prioritized for Covid-19 vaccines, along with other groups at risk.”

‘Obligation to care’

Annette Kennedy, president of the International Council of Nurses, said the organization lamented for all health workers who had lost their lives in the pandemic: “many needlessly; many we could have saved.”

“It is a shocking indictment of governments. It is a shocking indictment of their lack of duty of care to protect healthcare workers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

Kennedy warned: “Now they are exhausted, devastated, physically and mentally exhausted. And there is a prediction that 10 percent of them will be gone in no time.”

The WHO wants each country to have vaccinated 40 percent of its population by the end of the year, but Tedros said 82 countries are at risk of missing that goal, mainly due to insufficient supply.

In high-income countries, according to the World Bank classification, 133 doses have been administered per 100 people. In the 29 lowest-income nations, the figure drops to five.

The G20 risks a ‘moral catastrophe’

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now WHO ambassador for global health financing, said the G20 summit on October 30-31 in Rome would be a critical time to fight the pandemic.

If the richest countries in the world cannot mobilize immediate airlift of doses for the unvaccinated in the poorest nations, “an epidemiological, economic and ethical neglect of duty will put us all to shame,” said Brown, who organized the summit of the G20 of 2009.

He said that by February, wealthy nations could have accumulated an unused stockpile of a billion doses of vaccines, and denying them to the unvaccinated would be “one of the biggest imaginable failures of international public policy.”

“It is a moral catastrophe of historic proportions that will shock future generations,” he said.

The new coronavirus has killed at least 4.9 million people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a count from official sources compiled by AFP, while nearly 242 million cases have been recorded.

Brown said that without reallocating the growing reserve, the latest WHO forecast was that there could be 200 million more Covid cases, with five million lives at stake.

(AFP)