The World Health Organization has suggested it’s time for countries to have a conversation about mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, saying: “It’s a healthy debate to have.”
Robb Butler, Executive Director of WHO Europe, told Kay Burley on Sky News: “Mandatory vaccination can, but does not always increase intake.
However, he suggested that countries – and individuals – should now think about the matter.
He added: “There are history lessons here where the mandates have come at the expense of trust, social inclusion. So it’s very delicate, but we think it’s time to have this conversation, from an individual and population-based perspective. “
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Cases are increasing again across much of Europe – strongly in the case of countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, the latter returning in a full lock Therefore.
Mr Butler said that only 54% of the population of the 53 Member States of the WHO European region are vaccinated, “so there is still a lot of work to be done. We are not there yet”.
He added: “It looks like we’re going to have a worrying season ahead.”
Mr Butler pointed to a study last week in the BMJ which suggested that 53% of transmission was prevented by the use of a mask.
He said only 48% of the mainland’s population used masks.
Video: And just like that, they’re back (Sky News)
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“If we see this increase, we will see a reduction in cases and deaths,” he said.
“If we saw 95% use of universal masks, we can project that we could save around 160,000 lives (in Europe).”
He said he was “alarmed” by the surge in COVID-19 infections across Europe as the continent battles a new wave of the virus.
Half a million more deaths could be recorded by early 2022 if steps are not taken to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus, he warned.
“We just passed, very unfortunately, the 1.5 million death mark last week,” he said.
“If we continue on the current path, we expect an additional 500,000 deaths by the spring of next year.
“It’s really worrying.”
Asked about the causes of the resurgence in continental Europe, he replied that this was partly due to too many populations vulnerable to infection, but also to “waning immunity” from vaccines, especially after 30 weeks.
“The majority of people in intensive care units are not vaccinated,” he said.
Other aggravating factors include the more transmissible Delta variant – which accounts for 99% of cases – the winter season, people moving indoors, and the need for face masks and more ventilation.
Mr Butler said: “What we need is every member of society to be vaccinated.”
Thousands of protesters rallied in cities across Europe over the weekend against leaders seeking to tighten COVID-19 restrictions to curb the latest wave of infections.
Also asked about mandatory jabs in Great BritainDeputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Kay Burley on Sky News: “Maybe in some countries, but I’m not thinking of the UK, given the tremendous success we have had in rolling out the vaccine.
“The Booster Deployment Program is working very effectively. It shows that we have the right balance in the UK and we have to stick to our guns.”
He added: “I don’t think we need to deviate from the course we are on right now.”