After more than a year of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, many of us are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as case numbers begin to slow and the vaccine rollout begins.
But it turns out that glimmer of optimism is “unrealistic”.
That’s according to a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) figure, who dashed hopes of the coronavirus crisis ending in 2021.
During a media briefing on Monday, Dr Michael Ryan, the director of WHO’s emergencies program, said that expectation was “premature”, according to the Associated Press.
However, he said the vaccine rollout would alleviate much of the suffering.
“If we’re smart, we can finish with the hospitalisations and the deaths and the tragedy associated with this pandemic” by year’s end, he said.
“If the vaccines begin to impact not only on death and not only on hospitalisation, but have a significant impact on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe we will accelerate toward controlling this pandemic.”
Dr Ryan warned of the dangers of complacency given the virus was “very much in control” at the moment.
The comments come as 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine landed in Ghana from the COVAX Facility this week, marking the beginning of the global rollout.
COVAX is being led by a range of health organisations including the WHO, and is designed to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines around the world.
It is set to be the biggest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, although WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was disappointing that the rollout was starting months after vaccination began in wealthier nations such as the US.
“Countries are not in a race with each other,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
“This is a common race against the virus. We are not asking countries to put their own people at risk. We are asking all countries to be part of a global effort to suppress the virus everywhere.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s own hotly anticipated vaccine program has already hit a significant stumbling block.
RELATED: Urgent virus alert for 24 suburbs
The Government had set a target of 60,000 vaccines to be administered by March 1 – but as of last Friday, only around 30,000 Aussies had received their first jab.
The lucky few included 8110 aged care and disability residents throughout 117 care facilities.
And yesterday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian took a swipe at the Federal Government, claiming her state has not been given enough information to plan its vaccine rollout properly.
Ms Berejiklian said health officials had only be able to plan a few weeks ahead because authorities at a federal level had not delivered enough information.
“We’d like some certainty,” she told reporters on Monday.
“This is the issue … we’d like to know as soon as possible how many does NSW is receiving.
“Our teams are ready and willing to step up and increase our capacity, we just need to know what we are getting beyond week four.”
The Australian Government aims to have all adults vaccinated by October.