In order to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, countries around the world need to pursue a public health strategy that goes beyond vaccines and includes other measures, said health experts Monday.
The scientists, who published their concerns in a letter in the British Medical Journal, said that the ability of the Delta and Omicron variants to side-step protection granted by vaccines meant that a public health strategy relying only on jabs was likely to fail.
Countries that have chosen to allow the virus to spread have had to deal with increased mortality and shortages of medical staff, as well as eventual lockdowns to deal with surges. In contrast, “Countries which suppressed transmission early saw reduced mortality and less economic damage,” they write.
The letter comes as the U.K. government seems to have decided to not impose any additional restrictions following the holiday break. The country has seen a record surge in coronavirus infections driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The group of scientists, which includes public health experts from leading universities in the U.K. and around the world, advocated a “vaccines-plus” approach: combining the use of jabs with other measures like masks, better ventilation in indoor spaces, and set criteria to ramp up and down restrictions, as well as financial support to allow for isolation for those who test positive for the virus.
The World Health Organization should also declare the coronavirus an airborne pathogen to eliminate confusion around the disease, and more efforts should be made to ensure a fair distribution of vaccines, the BMJ letter reads.
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