WHO says COVID may have killed 180,000 health workerstext_fields
The World Health Organization has estimated between 80,000 and 180,000 healthcare workers have died worldwide due to COVID-19, from January 2020 to May of this year, insisting they must be prioritised for the vaccine.
About 135 million people are thought to work in healthcare worldwide.
In a briefing held on Thursday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that 2 in 5 health care workers are fully vaccinated but added that the average masks huge differences across regions and economic groupings.
In most high-income countries, more than 80% of health care workers are fully vaccinated, Tedros said. But in Africa, the rate is less than 1 in 10.
He added: "We call on all countries to ensure that all health and care workers in every country are prioritised for Covid-19 vaccines, alongside other at-risk groups.
Tedros further called for countries to prioritize health care workers in their vaccination rollouts, but the clear message underlying the WHO's updated data Thursday was that there remain massive disparities in vaccine access globally.
The WHO has also called for countries to postpone the delivery of booster shots until supply improves in countries that have had limited deliveries.
"More than 10 months since the first vaccines were approved, the fact that millions of health care workers still haven't been vaccinated is an indictment on the countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines," Tedros said.
He added that high- and upper-middle-income countries have now administered almost half as many booster shots as the total number of shots low-income countries have administered. And he urged the countries headed to the G20 summit later this month in Rome to tackle vaccine inequity.
WHO officials estimate that Western countries have hundreds of millions of doses sitting unused, swathes of which face upcoming expiration dates. They're urging countries to find ways to transfer their vaccines and switch delivery contracts to move their excess supplies to other countries.