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COVID-19 vaccines «highly effective» — WHO


The World Health Organization (WHO) today emphasized that based on evidence, the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination greatly outweigh the potential risk of side effects of the vaccines and that the effectiveness of the current vaccines relies on people taking all of their recommended doses. As of January 2023, 83 % of the global population has been vaccinated.

“The vaccines that we have to protect from COVID-19 are really effective, they are highly effective by preventing severe disease and death, though they are less effective at stopping people from getting infected or from transmitting to somebody else”, said Dr Kate O’BRIEN, WHO’s Director for Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at a press briefing at the United Nations in Geneva. However, she said, that “maximizing this effectiveness against hospitalization, severe disease and death really does rely on people taking all the recommended doses and that’s particularly important for people who are in high-priority groups”.

Based on US data systems that monitors for vaccine safety, concern was fueled in recent weeks about the mRNA vaccines increasing the risk of strokes in the older population.

According to Dr. O’Brien, “the evaluation of reports to that and other national vaccines safety monitoring systems has not found further evidence to substantiate this signal of the mRNA vaccine and strokes. But I do want to emphasize that we have already known that there is a risk of vaccine-induced myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, that has also received attention recently”.

This has been linked to COVID-19 vaccines, so WHO, but is a rare event. When it occurs, it is typically mild, responsive to treatment and less serious than myocarditis found with COVID-19 disease, or myocarditis of other cause.

“What I really want to emphasize that our advice to the public remains that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination greatly outweigh the potential risk. This is based on evidence”, confirmed WHO’s Dr. Kate O’Brien. Not getting vaccinated puts people at a higher risk of death or severe illness from COVID.

WHO also stressed that maximizing the effectiveness of the current vaccines relies on people taking all of their recommended doses.

“For the strains that we have circulating in the world now, the Omicron strains, the first booster dose actually improves the performance of your primary series for protection against the severe end of the disease spectrum”, said WHO’s Director for Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals. “So, you actually need three doses to get that optimal protection from vaccines”.

Regarding routine immunisation, Dr. O’Brien also emphasized the importance that having the vaccines is not sufficient. It also needs to reach the people who need them. In 2021 alone, 25 million children missed routine vaccination.

“We have over 50 million children cumulatively that now missed out on critical vaccines against measles, rubella, diphtheria and other of the life threating infections for which we vaccinate”, said Dr. Brien.

Hence, in 2023, WHO is committing to an intensification of immunization activities for children.

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