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A health worker collecting coronavirus samples in New Delhi on Sept. 16. Photo: Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Though health workers represent less than 3% of the population in many countries, they account for around 14% coronavirus cases reported to the World Health Organization, the organization announced Thursday.

Why it matters: The WHO called on governments and health care leaders to address threats facing the health and safety of these workers, adding that the pandemic has highlighted how protecting them is needed to ensure a functioning health care system.

What they're saying: “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said.

  • “No country, hospital or clinic can keep its patients safe unless it keeps its health workers safe. WHO’s Health Worker Safety Charter is a step towards ensuring that health workers have the safe working conditions, the training, the pay and the respect they deserve.”

Yes, but: The organization said it is unable to determine if health workers were infected in the work place or in community settings.

The big picture: On top of the physical risks associated with the virus, the WHO warned that health workers have experienced "extraordinary levels of psychological stress" because of living in fear of exposure, high-demand work settings and being away from family for long hours.

Go deeper

Dec 25, 2020 - World

Chile becomes first South American country to start COVID vaccination

Nurse receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Santiago, Chile. Photo: David Lillo/Ministerio de Salud de Chile via Getty Images

Chile became the first country in South America to begin coronavirus vaccinations on Thursday after receiving its first 10,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses, Reuters reports.

The big picture: The country bought 10 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech and is expected to receive 240,000 doses in January, per Reuters.

Dec 25, 2020 - Health

Scientists suspect compound in allergic reactions to Pfizer vaccine

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Scientists believe the compound polyethylene glycol — known as PEG — is to blame for the reported allergic reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Driving the news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified six allergic reactions to the vaccine out of the 272,001 doses given through Dec. 19.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.