* The news does not mean CoVID-19 is over as a global health threat—Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
* Several PHEICs have not been related to pandemics, and several sustained epidemics have not been assigned PHEIC status
By Duncan Mlanjira
Following a recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency committee for CoVID-19, WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has confirmed that CoVID-19 will no longer be categorized a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
A statement from Gavi-the Vaccine Alliance says WHO declared the PHEIC when an emergency is “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected”, with implications for health beyond the affected state’s national borders.
The status helps trigger a set of measures and legally binding obligations that facilitate a coordinated international response and lack of PHEIC status does not mean CoVID-19 is no longer a pandemic.
The director general is quoted as saying this news does not mean CoVID-19 is “over as a global health threat,” saying several PHEICs have not been related to pandemics, and several sustained epidemics or “pandemics” have not been assigned PHEIC status.
The statement said the Emergency Committee has met every three months since the PHEIC was declared in early 2020 and that the lifting of official PHEIC status is a sign of the progress made in the past year — getting most countries to a solid baseline of coverage, including with support from COVAX which has focused efforts on lower-income countries.
Global coverage with a primary series (two doses) of CoVID-19 vaccine stands at 64% on average, and at 55% on average in the 92 lowest-income countries (compared to 28% at the beginning of 2022).
On average, the majority of health care workers and older adults across the world – among those at greatest risk – are protected with two doses, and are starting to receive boosters. The countries furthest behind have made remarkable progress.
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance which co-leads COVAX — the global initiative for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines — is quoted as saying: “After more than three years of this pandemic, the world is ready to move to the next phase.
“But while today marks a historic milestone, we must also be clear about the need to continue to protect our most vulnerable people, as we do for other deadly but preventable diseases.
“Around three out of 10 older adults in lower-income countries have not yet received two doses, and we know they are among those most likely to become severely ill or die from COVID-19.
“During the pandemic, countries delivered more vaccines than ever before in history. With multiple outbreaks, millions of children missing out on routine vaccinations, and the certainty of future pandemics, the urgent question is — how can we best apply what we have learned to reach more people with lifesaving vaccines than ever before?”
Dr Seth Berkley is a medical doctor specializing in infectious diseases epidemiology and a global health expert and the report further says COVAX has delivered nearly 2 billion doses to 146 countries, and dedicated more than US$1.6 billion to help countries turn vaccines into vaccinations, and strengthen health systems.
For the past year, Gavi and partners have been working to help countries for this moment and ensure an unprecedented global emergency response effort can smoothly transition to a tailored, country-specific effort to deliver CoVID-19 vaccines alongside other vital routine services.
With a strong foundation of coverage around the world, a plan to integrate COVID-19 vaccine delivery into routine vaccination programs, developed in consultation with countries and partners, will be discussed at the upcoming Gavi Board meeting in June 2023.
The statement also says most recently, the African Union, Africa CDC, Gavi, WHO, UNICEF, countries and other partners convened a global stocktake in Addis Ababa to share thoughts on how best to take this work forward.
Gavi has been supporting routine immunization and outbreak response in lower-income countries since 2000, introducing more than 560 new vaccines and immunizing more than 1 billion additional unique children, and reaching another nearly 2 billion people through campaigns. This work has helped halve childhood mortality in Gavi-supported countries.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases.
Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation — over 981 million children — and prevented more than 16.2 million future deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 lower-income countries.
Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningococcal and yellow fever vaccines.
After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation, above all the zero-dose children who have not received even a single vaccine shot.
The Vaccine Alliance employs innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency.