Red Cross says Omicron variant shows dangers of vaccine inequality

The Omicron Covid variant has shown the dangers of vaccine inequality, especially in conflict zones, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The head of the ICRC crisis management team, Esperanza Martinez, has warned that vaccinating tens of millions of people living in conflict zones and other hard-to-reach areas is an “absolute necessity” if the pandemic must be resolved.

“So far, only a small slice of vaccine has reached conflict zones, where families and entire communities often live without access to basic health services,” he said.

The Red Cross estimates that more than 100 million people now live in areas wholly or partially controlled by non-state armed groups, often leaving communities beyond the reach of immunization campaigns led by ministries of health.

These cohorts can only be reached “by a comprehensive, decisive and collective effort,” said Martinez.

He said the ICRC was playing a supporting role in the “complex task” and “facilitating vaccinations in the last mile areas by helping access across the front lines through its neutral humanitarian work and helping with logistics. transport and cold chains “.

The challenges of such an enterprise in war zones are manifold.

Mr Martinez cited their unpredictability and their generally weak infrastructure and health systems.

He also said that negotiations with armed groups can be long and delicate.

Immunization rates in conflict-affected countries are worryingly low. In Ethiopia, South Sudan and Yemen, around 1.2 percent of the population is fully immunized.

Somalia is at 3.5 percent, while Syria is at 4 percent.

This compares to a complete vaccination rate of 43% worldwide, according to figures from Our World In Data.

“Omicron’s rapid effect on the world shows how important it is to increase immunization rates everywhere to reduce the risk to health workers and populations and the potential emergence of additional variants of concern,” said Mr Martinez said.

Updated: December 4, 2021, 9:33 PM

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