World Health Organization Says COVID-19 Still a Public Health Emergency, But in Transition

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reported earlier this week (January 30, 2023) that the COVID-19 pandemic “continues to constitute a public health emergency of international concern,” but that it is “probably at a transition point.” The Director-General concurred with the opinion provided by the International Health Regulations’ (IHR) Emergency Committee regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.  

IHR’s Emergency Committee recommended that WHO, in consultation with partners and stakeholders, should develop a proposal for alternative mechanisms to maintain the global and national focus on COVID-19 after the public health emergency of international concern is terminated, including if needed a possible Review Committee to advise on the issuance of standing recommendations under the IHR. 

The WHO Director-General, in keeping with those recommendations, issued seven temporary recommendations to WHO member states. These are as follows:  

  • Push for 100% vaccination coverage in high-priority groups, guided by recommendations on the use of booster doses, and that State parties should  plan for integration of COVID-19 vaccination into part of life-course immunization programs.  
  • Improve the reporting of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance data to WHO to better detect, assess, and monitor emerging variant as well as for identifying significant changes to COVID-19 epidemiology and understand the burden of COVID-19 in all regions;  
  • Enhance access to COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics and consider preparing for these medical countermeasures to be authorized outside of  Emergency Use Listing procedures and within normal national regulatory frameworks.;  
  • Strengthen country readiness to respond to future outbreaks, including attention to health workforce capacity, infection prevention and control, and financing for respiratory and non-respiratory pathogen preparedness and response;  
  • Strengthen the public, media, and communities’ understanding of the evolving science to encourage evidence-informed action and policies as well as monitor individuals’ and the public response to public health and social measures and the uptake and acceptability of COVID-19 vaccines and implement measures, including communication strategies, to support appropriate utilization;  
  • Continue to adjust any remaining international travel-related measures, based on risk assessment, and to not require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 as a prerequisite for international travel; and  
  • Continue to support research for improved vaccines that reduce transmission and have broad applicability as well as research to understand the full spectrum, incidence, and impact of post-COVID-19 conditions and to develop relevant integrated care pathways. 

Source: World Health Organization