Saturday, June 19, 2021

Vaccines effective against variants but overseas travel still not safe, says WHO

WHO's Europe chief says 'pockets of increasing transmission' on the continent could quickly spread.

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Progress against the coronavirus pandemic remains “fragile” and international travel should be avoided, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Europe director warned on Thursday, but stressed that authorised vaccines do work against variants of concern.

“Right now, in the face of a continued threat and new uncertainty, we need to continue to exercise caution, and rethink or avoid international travel,” Hans Kluge said, adding that “pockets of increasing transmission” on the continent could quickly spread.

The so-called Indian variant, which may be more transmissible, has now been identified in at least 26 of the 53 countries in the WHO Europe region, Kluge said during his weekly press conference.

But he said that authorised vaccines are effective against the new strain.

“All Covid-19 virus variants that have emerged so far do respond to the available, approved vaccines,” Kluge said, adding that all Covid-19 variants can be controlled with the same public health and social measures used until now.

So far only 23% of people in the region have received a vaccine dose, with just 11% having had both doses, Kluge said, as he warned citizens to continue to exercise caution.

“Vaccines may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot be blinded by that light,” he said.

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