TThe World Health Organization on Wednesday called for a temporary moratorium on the use of booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine by rich countries, saying the global priority should be to increase the supply of the first doses to the countries that are still struggling to protect health workers and the elderly.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries should postpone starting booster doses until at least the end of September, though it quickly became clear that the global health agency could extend the call if vaccine doses are available to low-income countries do. not increasing to adequate levels.
Tedros said the goal of the moratorium would be to get enough vaccine supplies from COVAX, the international distribution system led by WHO, to vaccinate 10% of the population of all countries. That 10% includes people at higher risk of Covid-19 infection.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot and must not accept that the countries that have already used most of the world’s vaccine supply use even more while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected, ”Tedros said during a press conference broadcast from WHO headquarters in Geneva.
Of the more than 4 billion doses of vaccines that have been administered globally to date, more than 80% have gone to high-income countries that represent less than half of the world’s population, Tedros said. High-income countries have administered, on average, almost 100 doses for every 100 people in their population; in low-income countries, 1.5 doses have been given per 100 people “due to lack of supply,” he said.
“We need an urgent reversal, from most vaccines going to high-income countries to most vaccines going to low-income countries,” Tedros said.
A small number of countries have started boosting their populations, and a larger number of countries are considering it, said Kate O’Brien, WHO director of immunizations, vaccines and biologics. The United States is one of the countries that is grappling with the problem of booster injections.
It’s currently unclear whether booster doses are needed, O’Brien said, noting that moving too fast to adopt boosters would come at a high cost.
“This is a great discussion about giving third doses to people who have already been vaccinated. And it is incredibly important that we are clear about what the data is, that the data is strong to support, or not to support, whether or not those doses should be given, “he said. “If we don’t really rely on that clarity, we will be in a place where we will always have uncertainty about what should really be done.”
The proposed moratorium is for the extensive use of booster injections. WHO officials said it is not intended to exclude the administration of additional doses to selected populations that do not receive protection from the standard vaccine regimen.
Research shows that some immunosuppressed people, for example, people who have undergone organ transplants and are taking immunosuppressive medications, receive little or no protection from currently administered vaccines. It has been proposed that such people may need a regimen of three shots of the vaccine, rather than the two scheduled doses used for most people with most vaccines. (The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is used in a one-dose regimen.)
“There is increasing evidence that there are some populations … that do not respond to the vaccine as well as the general population does,” O’Brien said. “We don’t want that to be confused with politics…. whether booster doses should be given. “
In May, the WHO called on rich countries and vaccine manufacturers to increase efforts to supply vaccines to low-income countries, setting a goal of vaccinating 10% of people in all countries by the end of September. At the current rate of distribution, that goal will not be achieved, Tedros said.