- WHO officials noted that vaccines cannot fully prevent transmission
- The WHO warned that Europe and Central Asia may see 700,000 more COVID-19 deaths by March 2022
- Europe accounted for more than 65% of all new COVID-19 cases last week
The chief of the World Health Organization on Wednesday warned the public not to have a “false sense of security” after being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and urged people to continue practicing safety tactics, such as wearing masks and social distancing.
In a news briefing in Geneva, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said many countries and communities are wrongly thinking that being vaccinated meant they are fully protected against COVID-19 and would no longer need to take precautions.
“In many countries and communities, we are concerned about a false sense of security that vaccines have ended the pandemic, and that people who are vaccinated do not need to take any other precautions,” Tedros told reporters at the briefing.
He noted that COVID-19 vaccines may save lives, but they are not designed to fully prevent transmission and infection. The WHO director-general called on vaccinated people to continue masking and social distancing to prevent themselves from becoming infected or spreading the virus to others.
“We cannot say this clearly enough: even if you are vaccinated, continue to take precautions to prevent becoming infected yourself, and infecting someone else who could die,” he said, adding: “That means wearing a mask, maintaining distance, avoiding crowds and meeting others outside if you can, or in a well-ventilated space inside.”
The news briefing comes as Europe continues to see an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations after the government lifted many restrictions and some nations lag in vaccination rates.
During the week ending on Nov. 21, Europe accounted for 67% of all new COVID-19 cases reported. Health officials recorded a total of over 2.4 million new infections, compared to more than 2.16 million reported the week before. Additionally, Germany accounted for 31% of all new cases.
The WHO warned that Europe and Central Asia could see at least 700,000 more COVID-19 deaths by March 2022. The organization also added that intensive care units in 49 of 53 countries in both regions could also experience extreme stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the next four months.
WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove urged officials to take more precautionary measures against COVID-19, especially during the holidays in Europe. However, she emphasized that social measures do not immediately equate to lockdowns.
Globally, COVID-19 has so far infected 259,380,413 people and claimed 5,173,924 lives, according to Johns Hopkins University data.