Speaking during an interview, Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead at the World Health Organization (WHO), warned that the world was facing a “tsunami of Covid infections” due to the joint spread of Delta and Omicron.
In an article published on Tuesday in the Spanish daily El Pais, Van Kerkhove raised concerns that vaccination alone would not be enough to control the spread of the two highly transmissible variants of the Covid virus.
“I think we are facing a tsunami of infections in the world, both Delta and Omicron,” Van Kerkhove stated.
Vaccination alone is not enough. Vaccination prevents serious illness and death, but does not completely prevent infection.
Citing the situation in Europe, where there is a high level of vaccination, Van Kerkhove cautioned, “It is expected that Omicron will manage to escape, to some extent, from the immune response.”
Urging governments to preemptively respond to the risk posed by new coronavirus strains, she said they shouldn’t wait for an increase in hospitalizations before acting, as existing variants are already “wreaking havoc.”
Voicing her fears about the impact of Omicron, Van Kerkhove acknowledged that the WHO currently has “very limited information,” but said “we must still be cautious if we are to stamp out the virus in 2022.”
“We need to reduce transmission to low levels, avoid serious illness with vaccination, and achieve early treatment. 2022 has to be the year we do it,” she stated, warning that the pandemic would otherwise drag on.
Since the Omicron variant first emerged in November, it has spread to nearly 60 countries. The WHO has cautioned that it presents a “very high” global risk and could have “severe consequences” in some regions of the world.