Coronavirus pandemic won't be over until 70% are vaccinated: WHO

Agricultural workers receive shots of Johnson and Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine at a centre in Spain.
Agricultural workers receive shots of Johnson and Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine at a centre in Spain.PHOTO: AFP

COPENHAGEN (AFP) - The WHO's European director warned on Friday (May 28) that the Covid-19 pandemic won't be over until at least 70 per cent of people are vaccinated, while deploring that the vaccine roll-out in Europe is still "too slow".

"The pandemic will be over once we reach 70 per cent minimum coverage in vaccination," the World Health Organisation's (WHO's) regional director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, told AFP in an interview.

Dr Kluge also said that one of his main worries was the increased contagiousness of new variants of the novel coronavirus.

"We know for example that the B1617 (Indian variant) is more transmissible than the B117 (British variant), which already was more transmissible than the previous strain," he said.

According to the Belgian doctor, speed is "of essence" in a pandemic.

"Even when WHO declared a pandemic, many countries were still waiting. We lost valuable time."

While the regional director, who has held the position since February 2020, lauded calls for solidarity, he stressed that a speedy roll-out of vaccines was of the utmost importance.

"Our best friend is speed. The time is working against us. The vaccination roll-out still goes too slow," Dr Kluge said.

"We need to accelerate, we need to enlarge the number of vaccines."

In the 53 countries and territories that make up the WHO's European region - including several in Central Asia - 26 per cent of the population has received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

In the European Union, 36.6 per cent of the population has received at least one dose, according to a count by AFP.