The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) approved the establishment of the African Foundation for Pharmaceutical Technology, a pioneering new institution that will significantly improve Africa's access to the technologies that underpin the manufacture of medicines, vaccines and other pharmaceutical products. products
African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said: “This is a breakthrough for Africa. Africa must have a health defense system, which must include three main areas: renewing Africa's pharmaceutical industry, developing Africa's vaccine manufacturing capacity, and building Africa's quality healthcare infrastructure."
During the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa in February 2022, the continent's leaders called on the African Development Bank to facilitate the establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation. Adesina, who presented the institution's case to the African Union, said: "Africa can no longer outsource the security of health care for its 1.3 billion citizens to the benevolence of others." With this bold initiative, the African Development Bank has delivered on that commitment.
The decision is a huge boost to the health prospects of a continent that has been battered for decades by the burden of various diseases and pandemics like Covid19, but with severely limited capacity to produce its own medicines and vaccines. Africa imports more than 70% of all the medicines it needs, spending $14 billion a year.
Global efforts to rapidly expand the manufacturing of essential pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, in developing countries, particularly in Africa, to ensure greater access, have been hampered by the protection of intellectual property rights and patents on technologies , know-how, manufacturing processes and trade secrets.
African pharmaceutical companies do not have the scouting and bargaining power, nor the bandwidth to engage with global pharmaceutical companies. They have been marginalized and left behind in complex global pharmaceutical innovations. Recently, 35 companies signed a license with Merck in the United States to produce nirmatrelvir, a drug against covid-19. None of them were African.
There is no institution on the ground in Africa to support the practical implementation of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on non-exclusive or exclusive licensing of proprietary technologies, knowledge and processes.
The African Foundation for Pharmaceutical Technology will fill this important and obvious gap. When fully established, it will have world-class experts in pharmaceutical innovation and development, intellectual property rights and health policy; acting as a transparent broker that promotes and negotiates the interests of the African pharmaceutical sector with global pharmaceutical companies and others from the South to share proprietary IP-protected technologies, knowledge and processes.
Adesina said: “Even with the TRIPS Waiver decision at the World Trade Organization (WTO), millions are dying, and most likely will continue to die, for lack of vaccines and effective protection. The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation provides a practical solution and will help tilt access to proprietary technologies, knowledge, techniques and processes in favor of Africa.”
The World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization, respectively, welcomed and praised the African Development Bank's decision to establish the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation.
World Trade Organization Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said: “The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation is innovative thinking and action from the African Development Bank. It provides some of the infrastructure needed to secure an emerging pharmaceutical industry in Africa."
World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said: “The establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, by the African Development Bank, is a game changer in accelerating access for pharmaceutical companies African companies to technologies and knowledge protected by IP. like in Africa.
The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation will prioritize technologies, products and processes focused primarily on diseases that are widely prevalent in Africa, including current and future pandemics. It will also develop human and professional skills, the research and development ecosystem, and support the improvement of manufacturing plant capabilities and regulatory quality to meet World Health Organization standards.
While the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation is established under the auspices of the African Development Bank, it will operate independently and raise funds from various stakeholders including governments, development finance institutions, philanthropic organizations, among others.
The Foundation will drive the African Development Bank's commitment to spend at least $3 billion over the next 10 years to support the pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing sector under its Vision 2030 Pharmaceutical Action Plan. The Foundation's areas of work also they will be an asset to all other current investments in pharmaceutical production in Africa.
Rwanda will host the African Foundation for Pharmaceutical Technology. As a common benefit entity, the Foundation will have its own governance and operating structures. It will promote and negotiate alliances between foreign and African pharmaceutical companies.
The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation will empower local pharmaceutical companies to engage in local production initiatives with systematic technology learning and plant-level technology upgrading.
The Foundation will work with African governments, research and development centers of excellence to strengthen the regional pharmaceutical and vaccine innovation ecosystem for Africa and develop the skills needed for the pharmaceutical sector to flourish.
It will also promote closer coordination of the various drug and vaccine manufacturing initiatives underway at the regional level to increase collaborative linkages, harness synergies and partnerships in a pan-African context.
The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation will work closely with the African Union Commission, the European Union Commission, the World Health Organization, the Medicines Patent Fund, the World Trade Organization, philanthropic organizations, agencies and bilateral and multilateral institutions, and will foster collaboration among the public. and the private sectors of developed and developing countries.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday announced that the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee will meet on June 23 to determine if Monkeypox should be declared ‘Emergency of International Concern’.
The WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, said at a news conference at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, that the Committee had been convened due to the spread of the Monkeypox virus to 32 non-endemic countries.
The experts will meet on June 23 to assess whether the continuing outbreak represents a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the highest level of global alert, which currently applies only to the COVID-19 pandemic and polio.
So far this year, more than 1,600 confirmed cases and almost 1,500 suspected cases of Monkeypox have been reported to WHO, across 39 countries – including seven countries where monkeypox has been detected for years, and 32 newly-affected nations.
At least 72 deaths have been reported from previously affected countries.
No deaths have been registered so far from the newly affected countries, but the agency is seeking to verify news reports of a related death in Brazil.
“The global outbreak of Monkeypox is clearly unusual and concerning,” Ghebreyesus said, calling to step up the response and international coordination.
Ibrahima Socé Fall, WHO Deputy Director for Emergency Response, explained that the risk of spread in Europe is considered “high”, w hile in the rest of the world “moderate” and that there are still knowledge gaps regarding how the virus is being transmitted.
“We don’t want to wait until the situation is out of control,” he said.
WHO has published recommendations for governments regarding case detection and control.
WHO Smallpox expert, Dr Rosamund Lewis, said it was crucial to raise awareness in the population about the level of risk and explain the recommendations to avoid infecting close contacts and family members.
Lewis explained that, although the disease sometimes only produces mild symptoms, such as skin lesions, it can be contagious for two to four weeks.
“We know that it is very difficult for people to isolate themselves for so long, but it is very important to protect others. In most cases, people can self-isolate at home and there is no need to be in the hospital,” she added.
Monkeypox is transmitted through close physical contact with someone who has symptoms.
The rash, fluids and scabs are especially infectious. Clothing, bedding, towels, or objects such as eating utensils or dishes that have been contaminated with the virus can also infect others.
However, it is not clear whether people who do not have symptoms can spread the disease, the expert reiterated. (
The Member States of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday re-elected Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus to serve a second five-year term as Director-General of the world’s leading public health agency.
First elected in 2017, his re-election by secret ballot, was confirmed during the 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva. He was the sole candidate.
The vote was the culmination of an election process that began in April 2021 when Member States were invited to submit proposals for candidates for the post of Director-General.
The WHO Executive Board, meeting in January, nominated Ghebreyesus to stand for a second term.
His re-election was met with wide and loud applause from ministers and others at the Assembly in Geneva.
According to news reports he received 155 out of 160 votes cast, although he did not win the support of his native Ethiopia, due to opposing views over the Tigray conflict.
The WHO chief’s new mandate officially commences on Aug. 16.
A Director-General can be re-appointed once, in accordance with World Health Assembly rules and procedures.
In a tweet following the vote, Ghebreyesus said he was “humbled and honoured” by the vote of confidence, adding that he was “deeply grateful for the trust and confidence of Member States.”
“I thank all health workers and my WHO colleagues around the world,” saying that he was looking forward to “continuing our journey together.”
In remarks after the vote, he said his re-election was a vote of confidence in the whole WHO adding: “this is for the whole team.”
He acknowledged the pressure and attacks from “many quarters” during the pandemic, saying that despite the insults and attacks, he and the organisation always kept an open mind and did not take it personally.
“We have to focus on promoting health…number two, we have to focus on primary healthcare” and thirdly, he cited the importance of emergency preparedness and response, being dependent on the first two priorities.
During his first term, he instituted a wide-ranging transformation of the WHO, the agency said in a press release.
WHO said the transformation was aimed at increasing the Organisation’s efficiency driving impact at country level to promote healthier lives, protect more people in emergencies and increase equitable access to health.
The director-general guided WHO’s response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, where he sometimes faced criticism, most notably, from former U.S. President, Donald Trump, who took the decision to withdraw the U.S. from the WHO – a move since reversed.
The WHO chief also steered the response to outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and led the agency dealing with the health impacts of multiple other humanitarian crises, most recently the war in Ukraine.
Before first being appointed WHO Director-General, Ghebreyesus served as Minister of Foreign Affairs for Ethiopia between 2012 and 2016 and as Minister of Health prior to that, from 2005.
He had also served as chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; as chair of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership Board; and as co-chair of the Board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. (
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO), has warned that COVID-19 is not over in spite of reports that COVID-19 cases and deaths have declined significantly.
Ghebreyesus said this at the opening of the World Health Assembly on Sunday at Geneva, Switzerland.
World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO comprised of representatives of 194 countries.
Noting that it was the first time since 2019 that the Assembly could take place in-person, he asked ministers where the world stood two years into the most severe health crisis in a century.
The director general told health ministers that it was not time to lower the guard.
“So, is COVID-19 over? No, it’s most certainly not over. I know that’s not the message you want to hear, and it’s definitely not the message I want to deliver,” he said.
He added that although in many countries all restrictions had been lifted and life looks much like it did before the pandemic, reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions, because testing rates have plummeted.”
Ghebreyesus warned that reported deaths are also rising in Africa, the continent with the lowest vaccination coverage.
“This virus has surprised us at every turn – a storm that has torn through communities again and again, and we still can’t predict its path, or its intensity,” he emphasised.
While agreeing that there is progress with 60 per cent of the world’s population already vaccinated, he reminded that almost one billion people in lower-income countries remain unvaccinated.
“It’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere… Only 57 countries have vaccinated 70 per cent of their population – almost all of them high-income countries,” he noted.
WHO chief also warned that increasing transmission means more deaths and more risk of a new variant emerging, and the current decline of testing and sequencing means “we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus”.
He pointed out as well that in some countries there is still insufficient political commitment to roll out vaccines, and there are still gaps in operational and financial capacity.
“And in all, we see vaccine hesitancy driven by misinformation and disinformation,” he added.
Ghebreyesus said that WHO’s primary focus now is to support countries to turn vaccines into vaccinations as fast as possible, but they are still seeing supply-side problems for tests and therapeutics with insufficient funds and access.
“The pandemic will not magically disappear. But we can end it. We have the knowledge. We have the tools. Science has given us the upper hand,” he said.
He called on countries to work together to reach 70 per cent of vaccination coverage.
“As we speak, our colleagues around the world are responding to outbreaks of Ebola in DRC, monkeypox and hepatitis of unknown cause, and complex humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Yemen.
“We face a formidable convergence of disease, drought, famine and war, fuelled by climate change, inequity and geopolitical rivalry,” Ghebreyesus told ministers.
The director-general also announced on Sunday six awards to recognise outstanding contributions to advancing global health, demonstrated leadership and commitment to regional health issues.
The winners include British-Lebanese psychiatrist, Dr Ahmed Hankir, youth sports advocate, Ms Ludmila Sofia Oliveira Varela, and polio workers in Afghanistan.
The 75th World Health Assembly is being held in Geneva from 22 to 28 May, 2022.
It is the first in-person Health Assembly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
World Health Organisation (WHO) says one million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have now received one or more doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine, through a programme it piloted.
The malaria vaccine pilots, first launched by the Government of Malawi in April 2019, have shown the vaccine to be safe and feasible to deliver, and that it substantially reduces deadly severe malaria.
If widely deployed, WHO in a statement, estimated that the vaccine could save the lives of an additional 40,000 to 80,000 children each year.
“As a malaria researcher in my early career, I dreamed of the day we would have an effective vaccine against this devastating disease.
“This vaccine is not just a scientific breakthrough, it’s life-changing for families across Africa. It demonstrates the power of science and innovation for health.
“Even so, there is an urgent need to develop more and better tools to save lives and drive progress towards a malaria-free world,” the statement quoted Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, as saying.
The UN health agency stated that more than 155 million dollars had been secured from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to support the introduction, procurement and delivery of the malaria vaccine for Gavi-eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
WHO guidance is available to countries as they consider whether and how to adopt RTS,S as an additional tool to reduce child illness and deaths from malaria.
RTS,S is a first-generation vaccine that could be complemented in the future by other vaccines with similar or higher efficacy.
WHO welcomes progress in the development of R21-M and other malaria vaccine candidates in early clinical development.
The successful completion of clinical trials for these vaccines will be important to assess their safety and efficacy profiles.
WHO also welcomes the news from BioNTech, manufacturer of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, that it aims to develop a malaria vaccine using mRNA technology.
According to the 2021 World malaria report, global progress in reducing malaria cases and deaths has slowed or stalled in recent years, particularly in countries hardest hit by the disease.
The report notes the need for continued innovation in the research and development of new tools if the world is to achieve the 2030 targets of the WHO malaria strategy.
Funding for malaria-related research and development reached just over 619 million dollars in 2020. An average annual Research and Development investment of 851 million dollars will be needed in the period 2021–2030. (NAN) (
Source Credit: NAN
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for an urgent investment of resources, support, care and information in the fight against Tuberculosis (TB).
The organization made the call in a press release on Tuesday, ahead of World Tuberculosis Day 2022, which is celebrated annually on March 24.
The Nigerian News Agency reports that the day was set to raise awareness of the deadly infectious disease and its devastating health, social and economic impacts on people around the world.
March 24 marks the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch, a German physician and microbiologist, announced that he had discovered the bacteria that causes TB, paving the way for diagnosing and curing the disease.
The day is therefore observed as World Tuberculosis Day and has “Invest to end TB. Save Lives” as the theme of 2022.
The World Health Organization, which claimed that although 66 million lives had been saved since 2000, the COVID-19 pandemic had reversed those gains.
He added that "the theme of 2022 conveys the urgent need to invest resources to intensify the fight against TB and achieve the commitments made."
He said ongoing conflicts in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East further exacerbated the situation for vulnerable populations, adding that "global spending on TB diagnosis, treatment and prevention in 2020 was less than half of the target." global of 13 billion dollars per year. by 2022.
“For research and development; an additional US$1.1 billion per year is needed.”
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said that “urgent investment is needed to develop and expand access to the most innovative services and tools to prevent, detect and treat TB that could save millions of lives each year, reduce inequalities and avoid enormous economic problems”. losses.
"These investments offer huge returns to countries and donors, in avoided health care costs and increased productivity."
Ghebreyesus said investments in TB programs have shown benefits not only for people with TB, but also for health systems and pandemic preparedness.
According to him, based on the lessons learned from COVID-19 research, there is a need to catalyze investment and action to accelerate the development of new tools, especially new TB vaccines.
He said that 20 million people received TB treatment between 2018 and 2020, adding that “this is 50 per cent of the five-year target of 40 million people reached with TB treatment by 2018 to 2022.
“During the same period, 8.7 million people received TB preventive treatment. This is 29 percent of the 30 million target for 2018-2022,” she said.
Ghebreyesus said the situation was even worse for children and adolescents with TB.
It said that in 2020, approximately 63 percent of children and adolescents under the age of 15 with TB were not contacted or did not officially report that they had agreed to a life-saving TB diagnosis.
Ghebreyesus said nearly two-thirds of eligible children under the age of five did not receive preventive TB treatment and therefore remained at risk of getting sick.
He said that COVID-19 had an additional negative and disproportionate impact on children and adolescents with TB or at risk, with higher transmission of TB in the home, less seeking care and less access to health services.
According to him, the WHO is sounding the alarm on World TB Day for countries to urgently restore access to TB services, interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic for all people with TB, especially children and teenagers.
Dr. Tereza Kasaeva, director of the WHO Global TB Programme, also said that “children and adolescents with TB lag behind adults in access to TB prevention and care.
“The WHO guidelines issued today are a game changer for children and adolescents, helping them to be diagnosed and access care sooner, leading to better outcomes and reducing transmission.
"The priority now is to rapidly expand the implementation of the guideline in all countries to save young lives and prevent suffering."
She said she had updated guidelines for the management of TB in children and adolescents and highlighted new patient-focused recommendations for diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Kasaeva said the most recent recommendations were diagnostic tests that have been expanded to include non-invasive samples, such as stool.
Others are the rapid molecular diagnoses that are recommended as an initial test for the diagnosis of TB in children and adolescents.
“Children and adolescents who have non-severe forms of drug-susceptible TB are now recommended to receive treatment for four months instead of six months, as well as tuberculous meningitis, where a six-month regimen is now recommended instead of 12. months, he said.
He added that this would promote a patient-centered approach that would lower the cost of TB care for children, adolescents and their families.
The director said that two of the newer TB drugs are now recommended for use in treating drug-resistant TB (bedaquiline and delamanid) in children of all ages.
He said it would make it possible for children with drug-resistant TB to receive fully oral treatment regimens regardless of their age.
He explained that new decentralized and integrated TB care models were also recommended, which would allow more children and adolescents to access preventive care or treatment, closer to where they live.
“TB remains one of the world's deadliest infectious killers.
“Every day, more than 4,100 people die from TB and nearly 30,000 people contract this preventable and curable disease.
“Ending TB requires concerted action. On World Tuberculosis Day, WHO calls on everyone – individuals, communities, societies, donors and governments – to do their part to end TB.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa met with the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, in Cape Town today, Friday, February 11, 2022, to discuss progress towards Africa's self-sufficiency in the production of COVID-19 vaccines and related treatments.
Dr. Ghebreyesus and the Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation, Ms. Meryame Kitir, are on a two-day visit to various vaccine-related sites in Cape Town.
The delegation is hosted by the Department of Science and Innovation, the Department of Health and other partners.
Dr. Tedros visited President Ramaphosa at the President's official residence in Genadendal to speak with the President in his capacity as the African Union COVID-19 Champion.
The two-day visit serves to showcase South Africa's capacity and infrastructure in developing vaccines for current and potentially new strains of COVID-19, and to highlight how manufacturing in South Africa is a critical contribution to the continent's response to COVID-19.
Dr. Tedros commended South Africa's ability in this regard and welcomed President Ramaphosa's continued commitment, as the AU's COVID-19 Champion, to global vaccine equity and to securing vaccines for Africa such as the continent with less access to this form of protection.
Dr. Tedros and Ms. Kitir's visit focuses on the mRNA vaccine technology transfer center and ongoing vaccination initiatives, including the mRNA Center in Afrigen, genome sequencing at the Biomedical Research Institute, and the filling and finishing facility at Biovac.
President Ramaphosa has welcomed this monitoring visit by the World Health Organization as an opportunity to outline the depth of intellectual and technological capacity on the African continent and the integrity with which intellectual property is harnessed to enable vaccine production. in Africa.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has arrived in Beijing for the opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
"He will also meet with the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and the Chinese authorities," the secretary-general's deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday.
Similarly, the president of the UN General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, has arrived in Beijing to attend the Olympic Games, according to his spokeswoman, Ms. Paulina Greer.
“The president flew on the same flight from Seoul as Secretary-General António Guterres and Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus of the WHO.
"President Shahid's program will begin on Friday morning local time when he will travel to the Olympic Forest Park for the torch relay," Greer told reporters at UN headquarters.
Also, Ghebreyesus arrived in Beijing on Thursday for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, his second visit to China since the COVID-19 outbreak began in late 2019 and early 2020, according to reports.
The WHO chief posted a photo of getting off a plane on Twitter on Thursday and said he, along with the UN secretary-general and other leaders, had joined the opening of the Games, which are scheduled for Friday evening. night.
“The Games are the symbol of hope, unity, solidarity and peace. Those values are needed more than ever as we fight COVID-19 together,” she said.
Ghebreyesus visited China in January 2020 during the early stage of the outbreak and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to share the latest information related to the outbreak and reiterated his organization's commitment to bringing it under control.
For the past two years, China and the WHO have been working closely to share information, provide experiences, trace back studies, support vaccines, among other areas of collaboration.
WHO's participation in the event is due to a close collaboration between it and the International Olympic Committee, formalized in a memorandum of understanding to advocate for healthy lifestyles through sport, signed on May 16, 2020.
The WHO chief also participated in the 2021 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo. It will follow the official protocols established by the government, according to the spokesperson.
The painting was done as part of the LEAD Innovation Challenge Grand Finals event that took place late last year.BRAZZAVILLE, Congo (Republic of), January 27, 2022/APO Group/ --
A Namibian visual artist, Hage Mukwendje, delivered a special painting to the World Health Organization on January 21, 2022 at the United Nations House, Windhoek, Namibia. The painting was done as part of the LEAD Innovation Challenge Grand Finals event that took place late last year on November 24, 2021 and illustrates the importance of respecting our environment for future generations.
Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses, the WHO Representative for Namibia who received the painting on behalf of WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, said that WHO has invested close to NAD 70 million to support and strengthen Namibia's response. to Covid-19 and aims to mobilize more resources to ensure better results in case management, protection of health workers against infections, greater acceptance of vaccines and compliance with public health and social measures, strengthen the capacity of laboratory services, ensure the continuity of essential health services, and communicate and engage communities.
The LEAD Innovation Challenge is WHO's internal call to action for the workforce to solve problems big and small. The program aims to encourage the WHO workforce with diverse backgrounds, experiences, knowledge and expertise by bringing teams together and providing a safe environment to explore and experiment.
In 2021, the WHO workforce innovated on two themes: Going Green for Health and The Year of the WHO Workforce. During the Grand Finals event, Hage painted a portrait titled "My Future Matters" in 9 minutes, highlighting the innovative themes of thinking outside the box, thinking creatively, and connecting seemingly unconnected dots.
The portrait, “My Futures Matters”, tells the story of a girl who lives in the slums of Windhoek and covers her mouth and nose with a sheet to protect herself from the covid virus. In this moving work of art, Hage not only illustrates the importance of protecting the environment, but that our environment is our protector. The Earth is our home and it will sustain us and future generations if we manage it well.
Hage is a visual artist from Namibia who finds inspiration in his own history and uses as his themes the real-life experiences we face as humanity. He is a humanitarian at heart whose work depicts humanity's vulnerability and our yearning for protection. He has exhibited his work in Namibia, England, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, the United States and Spain.
With only 27.2% (Jan 11) of Namibians fully vaccinated, Dr. Sagoe-Moses urged artists like Hage to use their art form to promote COVID-19 vaccination to help increase demand. and acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The World Health Organization, WHO, says that cases of the new Omicron variant have been reported in at least 23 countries in five of the six WHO regions.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus unveiled in Geneva on Wednesday, saying the number of cases is expected to rise.
"WHO takes this development extremely seriously, and all countries should too," he told reporters listening to the agency's regular virtual briefing on COVID-19.
But it shouldn't surprise us. That is what viruses do. And this is what this virus will continue to do, as long as we allow it to continue spreading, "he said.
Preliminary evidence suggests that Omicron may have a "potential immune escape" and, or possibly, increased transmissibility, compared to previous variants of concern, according to the latest WHO weekly epidemiological update on COVID-19, also released Wednesday.
He said experts were learning more about the variant, "but there is still more to learn about its effect on transmission, the severity of the disease and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines."
The WHO chief urged countries to take "rational and proportionate risk reduction measures", including those aimed at delaying or reducing the spread, such as screening passengers or implementing quarantines for international travelers.
However, he stressed that "blanket travel bans would not prevent the international spread of Omicron and place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods."
Ghebreyesus stressed the need to continue public health measures against the spread of the coronavirus and ensure that vulnerable and high-risk people are fully vaccinated.
He cautioned that the current "toxic mix" of low vaccine coverage and very low evidence is a recipe for variant breeding and amplification.
“We need to use the tools we already have to prevent transmission and save Delta's lives.
“And if we do that, we will also prevent transmission and save Omicron's lives. But if countries and people don't do what they need to do to stop Delta's broadcast, they won't stop Omicron either, ”he said.
As of Tuesday, there were more than 261 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide and 5.2 million deaths, and the Delta variant continued to dominate.
Meanwhile, the director general said that the agreement of countries to launch a process to develop a new global agreement on preventing and responding to a pandemic is cause for hope.
Ghebreyesus welcomed the consensus decision reached during a special session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the UN agency's highest decision-making body, which was attended by representatives of its 194 member states.
The three-day meeting began on Monday with the sole objective of considering the benefits of creating a new international agreement on preparedness for pandemic prevention and how best to avoid the pitfalls that have clouded an effective response to COVID-19.
This was only the second time that the assembly met in a special session since the WHO was founded in 1948.
"The adoption of this decision is cause for celebration and reason for hope, which we will need," he said in his closing remarks, although he noted that the road ahead is long.
“There are still differences of opinion about what a new agreement could or should contain. But you have shown each other and the world that differences can be overcome and common ground can be found. "
The decision will establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) that will negotiate and draft any convention, agreement or other international instruments.
A first meeting will take place no later than March 1, 2022 and public hearings will also be held to inform the deliberations.
INB will deliver a progress report to the World Health Assembly in 2023 and present its results for consideration the following year.