Dr Mike Ryan, director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, warned “vigilance is going to be needed” over the winter while addressing the MacGill Summer School.
As reported in The Irish Times, Dr Ryan said Europe was once again experiencing “the rollercoaster of Covid”, as cases continue to rise.
According to the medical expert, there is unlikely to be enough immunity from Covid-19 in populations to stop the virus spreading.
He warned that cases would continue to increase over the winter as temperatures drop and people begin to spend more time indoors.
“We are just not reaching a point where we have enough immunity in the population that can stop virus transmission, and we are very, very unlikely to reach that given the current way the virus is transmitted,” Dr Ryan said.
Other speakers at the event included Infectious diseases consultant and president of the Royal College of Physicians Dr Mary Horgan, as well as Immunologist Dr Kingston Mills, a professor at Trinity College Dublin.
Speaking on the current situation with Covid-19, Dr Hogan said the public “really need to knuckle down” and “use all the tools we have.”
“It is using every single tool we have smartly to try to get us through this winter,” she said
Commenting on the impact of vaccines, Dr Mills said the Covid-19 vaccines were “very good” at preventing severe disease but cases of “vaccine breakthroughs” where the vaccinated get infected showed the vaccines were not inducing “sterilising immunity.”
Dr Mills mentioned that he could not understand the reluctance in Ireland to accept there was waning immunity from vaccines, adding that booster doses for healthcare workers would help the increasing number of Covid cases.
“I think we are in for a fairly rough winter,” he added.
One point of discussion for the panel was the amount of vaccines available in developed countries compared to lower income countries.
Both Dr Mills and Dr Ryan agreed that booster vaccines for vulnerable people and doses for unvaccinated countries could be provided in tandem.
Dr Ryan praised Ireland’s efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and the Irish people for having “really stuck it out” during the pandemic.
“It was needed because the health service could have really collapsed without that effort from Irish people, without the effort from the health workforce,” he said.