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Experts have warned of impending variants since the start of the pandemic, especially in areas where uncontrolled transmission is prominent. The constant strain on healthcare systems and the intermittent COVID restrictions may also mean lingering problems for the global economy, particularly for nations still struggling for more vaccine access.

“Vaccine inequity is a killer of people and jobs, and it undermines a global economic recovery,” said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, who continues to push more vaccinations as a primary solution to containing the pandemic.

The United Nations reported in September that “developed countries are far more likely to vaccinate their citizens, which risks prolonging the pandemic, and widening global inequality.” In countries like Egypt, only 35.2% of the population has received one dose, while in Ukraine the number is 33.3%. In many African nations, the numbers are much worse.

Economists lowered growth forecasts for 2022 due to the winter surge in COVID cases. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned in early December that the global economy faced a sharper slowdown than previously expected due to the Omicron variant and expects price inflation to average 4.4% in 2022, up from the 3.1% predicted in September’s forecast.

The World Health Organization has made it clear that “there are enough doses of vaccines globally to drive down transmission and save many lives.” Tedros noted that decreased vaccine availability was a huge contributor to the appearance of new variants such as Delta and Omicron.

The WHO’s website states that it had an objective of vaccinating 40% of every country’s population, yet 92 countries have not reached that goal despite 9 billion shots having already been administered. 

The WHO has a goal of getting 70% of the population in every country by the middle of this year. 

“Global leaders who have shown such resolve in protecting their own populations will extend that resolve to make sure that the world the whole world is safe and protected,” Tedros said. “And this pandemic will not end until we do that.”