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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday warned that the vaccines that are being used currently offer only 40% protection from transmission of Covid-19 due to the Delta variant.

The WHO further said countries should continue to follow measures non pharmaceutical measures as well as focus on reaching wider vaccination numbers to suppress the virus.

The statement from WHO came at a time when countries in Europe face a resurgence of the infection leading to lockdowns and increase in the number of hospitalizations.

“Vaccines save lives, but they do not fully prevent Covid-19 transmission. Data suggest that before the arrival of the Delta variant, vaccines reduced transmission by about 60%. With Delta, that has dropped to about 40%" said Tedros Adhanom, Director General of WHO, while adding that in many countries and communities the WHO is concerned about a false sense of security that vaccines have ended the Covid-19 pandemic and that people who are vaccinated do not need to take any other precautions.

Concerns over waning vaccine effectives with the Delta surge has worried health officials across the world. New data on vaccine effectiveness though suggests that vaccines cut the risk of severe disease or death, transmission risks persist.

For example, a new study on India’s Covaxin vaccine effectiveness has shown the vaccine is effective only 50% in cutting the risks of transmission against the Delta variant.

Similarly, the results emerging from the vaccine effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shows the vaccine was 51% effective in reducing transmission and the Moderna vaccine showed 73% (this was a study released in November this year from Qatar that was published in Nature).

For the AstraZeneca vaccine the effectiveness of Delta in preventing infection is seen in the range of 50-70%.

The lower protection in terms of preventing transmission has led to countries such as US, Israel, and Canada to offer booster shots to prime up the immunity levels.

In Europe the regulators will take a call in the coming weeks whether countries in the European Union should start offering booster shots. However, the WHO is not in the favour of offering booster shots in the interest of equity.

“Let’s give one life jacket to people, before you give two life jackets", said Mike Ryan, Assistant Director General for Emergency Preparedness WHO. The current data on hospitalization of Covid19 patients in countries such as Europe show that most of those who are in severe conditions of Covid19 are unvaccinated individuals. Part of Europe’s new wave is attributed to the unvaccinated people and the stress needs to be on focusing vaccination on those populations.

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