The World Health Organization on Thursday called for urgent action to better protect health and care workers while increasing COVID-19 vaccinations for them.
In a statement, the WHO said they are concerned that large numbers of health and care workers have died from COVID-19, and that an increasing proportion of the workforce is suffering from burnout, stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
At the same time, the WHO Europe made its announcement that a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in its region that includes 53 countries and extends from Greenland in the northwest to the Russian Far East.
“This is a big number and a major achievement credited to all the healthcare workers relentlessly saving lives on the frontlines of this crisis, but we can’t allow hubris to take hold,” said Dr. Hans Henri Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.
“Dig deeper, and you discover that these one billion doses are unequally shared, leaving many in our region behind,” Kluge said.
In a separate statement, WHO and some of its partners called on governments of member states and stakeholders to strengthen the monitoring and reporting of COVID-19 infections, ill-health, and deaths among health and care workers.
“We have a moral obligation to protect all health and care workers, ensure their rights and provide them with decent work in a safe and enabling practice environment,” said Jim Campbell, director of the WHO Health Workforce Department.
“This must include access to vaccines. Beyond vaccines, economic recovery and all new investments in emergency preparedness and response must prioritize the education and employment of health and care workers.”
Available data from 119 countries suggest that by September 2021, two in five health and care workers were fully vaccinated on average, with a considerable difference across regions and economic groupings.
Less than one in 10 have been fully vaccinated in the African and Western Pacific regions, while 22, primarily high-income countries, reported that above 80% of their health and care workers are fully vaccinated.
A few large high-income countries had not yet reported data to WHO, said the statement.
Those signing the statement expressed concern that large numbers of health and care workers have died from COVID-19. An increasing proportion of the workforce is suffering from burnout, stress, anxiety, and fatigue.