ATHENS HEALTH SUMMIT

Europe ‘at the center’ of the pandemic

europe-at-the-center-of-the-pandemic

Europe is once again “at the center” of the Covid-19 epidemic, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director Hans Kluge told the Athens Health Summit organized by Kathimerini.

The WHO official emphasized the importance of managing the health crisis “on the basis of science, not politics,” noting that Covid-19 had exacerbated international inequalities. Only 48% of Europeans wear masks indoors, he said. “If that figure rose to 95%, we would save 164,000 lives in Europe by March 1.”

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides focused on the success of the Europe-wide vaccination campaign, saying that 75% of adult Europeans are now fully vaccinated.

But the vaccination campaigns will have to be complemented by measures, such as the mandatory use of masks indoors and teleworking, said Peter Piot, noted virologist and special adviser to the president of the European Commission on Covid-19.

Asked about the new drugs to fight Covid-19, Piot said it would be an important weapon, especially where there is a high transmissibility, such as nursing homes. “It’s important to have something effective and easy to administer,” especially at the start of the infection and, if possible before the hospitalization, he said, adding that it will take about 5-6 months before there is a mass supply of these drugs.

Regarding the percentage of vaccinations needed to achieve herd immunity in the population, Piot said that it now stands at 90%. He said the vaccine prevents hospitalizations, but is not as successful in stopping transmission.

“It is, however, a very important weapon. We have to reach 90% so that we will just need a booster dose every year.”

Discussing the future of the pharmaceutical industry, Stelios Papadopoulos, chairman of biotechnology firm Biogen, said his company is “undoubtedly redefining the way we think about every aspect of our business” due to the changes in, among other things, the way drugs are made, clinical trials, distribution, supply chain and marketing.

George Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, said that the artificial intelligence currently being used simply detects data patterns, and that its use and performance in the health sector should be enhanced. He said companies will have to look at the potential of data use, as it is currently unstructured and needs proper processing.