Although promising, vaccines “will not stop the virus” and are not a “silver bullet” to ending the pandemic, a top World Health Organization official told a news conference hosted on Zoom Thursday.
Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, made the comments as he was giving an update on the region’s progress in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
When asked by CNN when the world could hope to go back to normal, Kasai said that “the answer to this question depends on all of us. And the individual actions that we take now and into the future."
He said the initial number of vaccines will be limited and that high-risk groups should be prioritized.
“For others beyond those high-risk groups: we may be looking for another 12 to 24 months before the majority of people have received the vaccine. And even then, there is some uncertainty and some unknowns,” he added.
“We must stick to the individual actions and behaviors, which protect not only ourselves, but also those around us. Hand washing, wearing a mask, physical distancing, avoiding a place with a higher risk.”
While the Americas and Europe were facing challenging Covid-19 situations, Kasai said the Western Pacific had fared “comparatively well” but should “keep preparing for the worst case scenario."
Younger people are getting infected: Dr. Babatunde Olowokure, WHO Western Pacific regional emergency director, added that the trend of infections had shifted from older generations to the 20-29 age group because of “increased mobility” following the relaxation of restrictions, and also because of a “low level of perceived threat in young people” leading to "complacency."
Olowokure added that the death toll remained highest for people aged over 80.
Although the Western Pacific was doing well in global terms, Olowokure also said that the “seven-day moving average is showing upward trends in our region” with the most notable increases of infections in South Korea, Japan and Malaysia.