COVID-19 pandemic: Up to 180K health workers may have died, report says

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Between 80,000 and180,000 health workers may have died of COVID-19 from January 2020 through May 2021, according to a new World Health Organization (WHO) report.

This estimate was announced in a new WHO paper detailing the “impact of COVID-19 on health and care workers.” 

The research was reportedly based on the 3.45 million coronavirus-related deaths around the world reported to the United Nations health agency up to May. 

In addition, the U.N. said in a Thursday release that that total may be at least 60% lower than the actual victim count. 

“COVID-19 is a powerful demonstration of just how much we rely on these men and women, and how vulnerable we all are when the people who protect our health are themselves unprotected,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

Aside from these deaths, the U.N. noted that WHO and its partners said that an increasing proportion of the workforce has been suffering from burnout, stress, anxiety and fatigue. 

In addition, the paper’s authors urged leaders to “support the call for the equitable distribution of vaccines” and devise and implement tailored communication strategies in order to increase the uptake rate of vaccines among health care workers – as well as combat vaccine hesitancy.

Tedros noted the regional disparity in vaccination. 

“In Africa, less than one in ten health workers have been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, in most high-income countries, more than 80% of health workers are fully vaccinated,” he said, adding that “the fact that millions of health workers still haven’t been vaccinated is an indictment on the countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines.”

Between Thursday and the Oct. 30 G-20 summit, the U.N. wrote that approximately 500 million vaccines doses would be produced – the number the agency says is needed to achieve the target of vaccinating 40% of the population of every country by the end of 2021.

Eighty-two nations are reportedly at risk of missing that target and, for around three-quarters of that group, the issue is insufficient supply.

While the G-20 nations have pledged to donate more than 1.2 billion vaccine doses to COVAX – the global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines – WHO says that only 150 million doses have been delivered thus far, even as wealthy countries stockpile millions of unused doses.

Nearly 5 million people worldwide have died from the virus, according to data from the John’s Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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