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An urgent call for concrete action to better protect health and care workers worldwide from COVID-19 and other health issues has been made by the World Health Organization and partners, including FIP, today.
This follows a new estimation in a WHO working paper that puts the number of health and care worker deaths due to COVID-19 at between 80,000 and 180,000 (derived from the 3.45 million COVID-19 related deaths reported to WHO as at May 2021). The organisations also point to an increasing proportion of the health workforce suffering from burnout, stress, anxiety and fatigue.
In addition, available data from 119 countries suggest that by September 2021, two in five health and care workers were fully vaccinated on average, with 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 mostly high income countries reported that above 80% of their health and care workers are fully vaccinated.
In a Joint Statement, FIP, WHO and partners, which include the Frontline Health Workers Coalition; the International Council of Nurses; and the World Medical Association, are calling on all member state governments and stakeholders to strengthen the monitoring and reporting of COVID-19 infections, ill-health and deaths among health and care workers, including disaggregation by age, gender and occupation as a standard procedure, to enable decision makers and scientists to identify and implement mitigation measures that will further reduce the risk of infections and ill-health. They also call upon leaders and policy makers to ensure that health and care workers are prioritised in the uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations.
“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. This must include access to vaccines”, said Jim Campbell, director of the WHO Health Workforce Department. “Beyond vaccines, economic recovery and all new investments in emergency preparedness and response must prioritise the education and employment of health and care workers, linking to the UN Secretary-General’s Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection,” he added.
“The WHO working paper provides a stark number to stimulate greater action; we cannot afford to lose more health and care workers and our world will not recover from the pandemic without long-term, sustainable investments in the health workforce,” said FIP CEO Catherine Duggan.