WHO Says Pandemic Isn’t Done After Biden Called It ‘Over’ in US

Signage for the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg

By

Dong Lyu

September 22, 2022 at 9:37 AM PDT

The World Health Organization said the world isn’t at the end of the Covid pandemic, just days after President Joe Biden declared it’s over in the US.

“Being able to see the end does not mean we are at the end,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in an online briefing on Thursday. 

Tedros, who said last week the end of the pandemic is in sight, warned there are still large gaps in vaccination in poor countries, risks of the virus evolving into more dangerous variants and hardly any access to life-saving Covid drugs in low-income nations.

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During an interview that aired Sunday, Biden said the pandemic is over in the US as cases and fatalities decline and he seeks to steer the world’s biggest economy away from a recession. Still, hundreds were dying each day from the disease during the summer.

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While rich countries are awash in vaccines and treatments, the situation remains far different in poor ones. The vaccination rate stands at just 19% in low-income nations, compared with almost 75% in rich ones, the WHO said in a separate statement. 

To improve access to Covid medicines, Pfizer Inc. said on Wednesday it will supply as many as 6 million courses of its antiviral drug Paxlovid to low-and-middle income countries at a lower price.

Different countries are at different stages in the pandemic, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical-lead at the briefing. “What we want to make sure is that all countries are focused on ending this emergency everywhere, because we live in an interconnected world.”