IFRC warns only way to win race against variants is to boost vaccinations and protection measures

Geneva, 16 July 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns that the global vaccination rate must increase rapidly and protection measures upheld, if we are to win the race against more transmissible, and potentially more deadly, variants.

At least three quarters of people in most countries want to be vaccinated worldwide, in the face of emerging new variants, according to new survey data.1 However, despite lofty rhetoric about global solidarity, there is a deadly gap in the global plan to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Only around a quarter of the world’s population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This number drops dramatically in low-income countries, where only 1% of people have received one dose.2 And some countries are yet to start mass vaccination campaigns.

 Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC, said:

“To world leaders we say, it is time to pull out all the stops to boost vaccine production. This includes a temporary waiver on intellectual property, as well as the sharing of knowledge and technology between countries. Vaccine equity is key to reducing the likelihood of variants and saving lives by limiting the spread of the virus. This is the only way we can truly end this pandemic.

“The IFRC is already playing its part to get vaccines into the arms of the most vulnerable, but in some countries, vaccination campaigns have hardly started. Our data shows that people want to be vaccinated, but production and vaccine dose sharing needs to happen much faster if we want vaccination to outpace the variants.”

The global number of new cases reported last week (5-11 July 2021) was nearly three million, a 10% increase as compared to the previous week3. This comes as the more transmissible Delta variant has been identified as the dominant variant in several countries across the globe, many of which have been hard hit in the latest peaks.*

As cases continue to rise in several parts of the world, the IFRC sends a strong reminder that, in the short term, the best methods of curbing transmissions remain the same as they have been since the outset, even as restrictions ease in several countries.

Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC Director of Health and Care, who has led the organization’s global health response since the start of the pandemic, said:

“We are facing a déjá-vu situation. Unless action is taken to curb transmission and boost equitable vaccine distribution, we risk going back to square one. This virus has not taken a break, and neither should we. As global solutions are sought, we urgently remind that we are all part of the solution. Get a vaccine, if you have access to one, continue to wear your mask, keep physical distance, and meet outdoors or in well ventilated spaces.

“The uncontrolled circulation of the virus will significantly increase the risk of emergence of new and more aggressive variants. This is a deadly risk for everyone in the world, including people already vaccinated. The only way to reduce this risk is to maintain public health measures and increase vaccination coverage everywhere in the world.”

The IFRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are already on the ground, facilitating the delivery of vaccines to overlooked and vulnerable communities around the globe. They relentlessly continue to treat, care for, and support hundreds of millions of people, as they have done since the start of this crisis.

The Colombian Red Cross has supported the vaccination of highly vulnerable and indigenous populations in the Amazon, while Chilean Red Cross is supporting the vaccination of migrants.

The Red Cross Society of Seychelles has supported the vaccination of 83% of the country’s vaccinated population, while the Comoros Red Crescent is helping to identify and support the most vulnerable, elderly people, who want to be vaccinated.

The Pakistan Red Crescent operates the only non-government facility designated as a Mass Vaccination Centre and in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has supported the vaccination of over 50% of the country’s vaccinated population.

The Italian Red Cross is running multiple vaccination centres in the country, and the French Red Cross has supported the immunisation of around 1.5 million people so far, including through mobile teams that vaccinate vulnerable people at home.

The Lebanese Red Cross runs Lebanon’s largest vaccination centre, with the capacity to vaccinate up to 5,000 people per day and the Tunisian Red Crescent has supported the reception and care of more than 80,000 people receiving their vaccination.

Mr Chapagain emphasized that though these are some of the hardest days the world has ever faced, we are all in this together:

“We have seen how all parts of society have come together to protect each other during this crisis. We must not give up on this now. Millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have stood side by side with their communities to provide lifesaving support and equitable access to a vaccine. We have been there since the beginning, and we will continue to be for as long as we are needed.”

The IFRC will host a live Q&A with Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC Director of Health and Care on Twitter at 15:00 Geneva time.

Notes to editors

*In Tunisia more than 7,500 cases are being reported daily, almost four times higher than a month ago. A significant increase in cases has also been reported in Libya, Iran and Iraq, a trend that the IFRC is concerned could spark a domino effect in the region.

Indonesia is the new epicentre in Asia, with 54,517 recorded cases, which is a 565% increase.

Across Europe, cases have been steadily increasing over the past month, with sharp rises reported in the last two weeks (30% and 20%, respectively) including new variants. Worrying spikes of cases and deaths have been reported in many countries, but the situation is particularly concerning in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia as health systems in those areas are often fragile and most of the people haven’t yet been vaccinated.

Africa has recorded a 43% week-on-week rise in COVID-19 deaths. Southern Africa is reporting concerning numbers of new cases with health systems stretched to capacity and decreased oxygen supply. The majority of new cases are now sequenced as the Delta variant. All countries of major concern have reported less than 5% of their population receiving at least one vaccine dose.

The Americas region continues to report the highest incidence of cases and deaths globally, with Cuba and Colombia reporting the highest relative number of new cases in the last week.

[1] The RCCE Collective Service is an initiative led by IFRC, GOARN, UNICEF and WHO https://www.rcce-collective.net/resource/data-synthesis-public-perceptions-of-the-covid-19-vaccinations-june-2021/

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

[1] COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update - WHO

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: 

In Geneva:

Ann Vaessen, +41 79 405 77 50, [email protected]

Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 43 67, [email protected]

About IFRC

The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.

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