Pandemic at a ‘transition point’ but remains global health emergency, according to WHO

WHO seeks more information about Russia's COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 3:46 PM, Jan 30, 2023

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, COVID-19 is still a global health emergency - according to the World Health Organization. The good news is that it's now at a transition point. I know many people – even patients - who have moved on from the pandemic and don’t even want to think about the coronavirus but the World Health Organization’s emergency committee does not agree with that perception.

They recently met to review the current situation and declared that for COVID-19, the PHEIC – which stands for “public health emergency of international concern” - should continue. Here’s why:

At least 170,000 people worldwide have died in connection to the coronavirus – that’s just in the last eight weeks. Unfortunately, there are still areas worldwide where the death rate is rising due to the virus. COVID is not going to go away. It’s considered an established pathogen, and this particular virus has a very unpredictable future. Also, a public health emergency declared by the World Health Organization means that countries will abide by their recommendations. The current ones are the following:

  • continue vaccinating citizens, especially high-priority groups
  • improve reporting of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance to WHO
  • maintain a strong national response capacity and prepare for future events to avoid a "panic-neglect cycle"
  • continue to fight misinformation
  • continue to support research and
  • adjust any remaining international travel measures based on risk assessment

It is true that not as many people are dying as we’ve seen with previous variants. Even the World Health Organization’s emergency committee found that there’s been a “decoupling between infection and severe disease”. Meaning infection is not always leading to severe disease. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for the future and also try to mitigate the current virus’ impact on morbidity and mortality.

Here in the US, we have over 33,000 Americans hospitalized and a daily average of 500 plus people dying every day.

To me, it’s important for everyone not to underestimate COVID. People need to change their perception that COVID isn’t as much of a risk. It is still killing people. So once again, please get vaccinated and boosted – recent data tells us that vaccines are working. And hopefully this time next year, we’ll be in an even better place with lower hospitalizations and deaths.