WHO envoy: Broad immunization in Europe won’t be possible within a year

Mask wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene will need to be continued in the near future.

WHO envoy: Broad immunization in Europe won’t be possible within a year

Widespread immunization against coronavirus won’t be possible, even in Europe, within the next 12 months, according to David Nabarro, co-director of the Imperial College Institute of Global Health Innovation and special envoy on COVID-19 to the director general of the World Health Organization. 

Speaking at POLITICO’s Health Care Summit on Tuesday, Nabarro said that public health measures such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene would be needed instead “for at least another 12 months and probably longer.” While warning that the pandemic was increasing in scale, Nabarro also said that he doesn’t believe that societies would tolerate a third lockdown next year. 

Expressing skepticism of the effectiveness of “disincentives” such as fines, which have been widely used in Europe to enforce restrictions, Nabarro told POLITICO’s Sarah Wheaton that trust and self-regulation are what’s needed. 

Nabarro, like many experts, also criticized Europe’s response to the pandemic, describing “a real forgetfulness in much of Europe about what public health is.” Instead he pointed to lessons from East Asian countries, which have better controlled the spread of the virus and got their communities on board in the response. 

In a veiled reference to leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump, who has announced his country’s withdrawal from the WHO, Nabarro said that he had “never imagined” that the world would be in a situation where leaders “almost deliberately” undermine the world’s response to a threat. Despite this, Nabarro said, he believes that this phenomenon of leaders refusing to participate in organizations such as the WHO won’t continue.