People in countries with low coronavirus immunization rates are at risk of severe illness and death as COVID-19’s omicron variant continues to spread around the globe, with 18 million cases reported last week, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
“The number of deaths remains stable for the moment, but we are concerned about the impact omicron is having on already exhausted health workers and overburdened health systems,” Tedros Ghebreyesus said at a coronavirus webinar. “Make no mistake, omicron is causing hospitalizations and deaths, and even the less severe cases are inundating health facilities.”
In countries where cases seem to have peaked, it provides hope that the worst of the latest wave is over, “but no country is out of the woods yet,” he said.
“I remain particularly concerned about many countries that have low vaccination rates, as people are many times more at risk of severe illness and death if they’re unvaccinated,” said Tedros.
He reinforced comments from other WHO officials who spoke at the webinar, reiterating that the vast majority of coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths are from among the unvaccinated.