The Delta variant is spreading through some countries where vaccinations lag, causing a “wave of death,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.
“Variants are currently winning the race against vaccines because of inequitable vaccine production and distribution,” Ghebreyesus said at his biweekly conference in Geneva. “It didn’t have to be this way and it doesn’t have to be this way going forward.”
The number of deaths is approximately the number of people killed in every battle since 1982, according to estimates from the Peace Research Institute Oslo and more than three times the number of people killed in traffic accidents around the world every year.
Even then, it is widely believed to be an undercount because of overlooked cases or deliberate concealment.
Global death rates are currently less than half of the highest point in January, with more than 18,000 deaths a day before vaccines were readily available.
Still, the variant has also taken hold in countries with higher vaccination rates like the U.K., Israel and the U.S., spreading among the remaining unvaccinated populations.
Britain, in fact, recorded a one-day total this week of more than 30,000 new infections for the first time since January, even as the government prepares to lift all remaining lockdown restrictions in England later this month.
Israel was forced to reissue its indoor mask order last month amid a surge in cases after having lifted it, according to the Times of Israel.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and other wealthy countries have agreed to share at least 1 billion doses with struggling countries that don’t have access to shots.
The U.S. has the world’s highest reported death toll, at over 600,000, or nearly 1 in 7 deaths, followed by Brazil at more than 520,000, though the real numbers are believed to be much higher in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government has long downplayed the virus.
The variants, uneven access to vaccines and the relaxation of precautions in wealthier countries are “a toxic combination that is very dangerous,” warned Ann Lindstrand, a top immunization official at the World Health Organization.
Instead of treating the crisis as a “me-and-myself-and-my-country” problem, she said, “we need to get serious that this is a worldwide problem that needs worldwide solutions.”
The Associated Press and Fox News’ Paul Best contributed to this report.