The World Health Organization is calling for a halt to COVID-19 vaccine boosters until at least the end of September, according to its head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as the vaccination gap between rich and poor countries widens.
The UN agency’s call for a moratorium is its strongest yet, coming as countries debate the need for boosters to combat the rapidly spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it,” Tedros added.
High-income countries administered around 50 doses for every 100 people in May, and that number has since doubled, according to WHO. Low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people, due to lack of supply.
“We need an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries to the majority going to low-income countries,” Tedros said.
To counter the spread of the Delta variant, some countries have begun to use or started weighing on the need for booster doses even as scientists debate over whether or not extra shots are needed.
“The fact that we are vaccinating healthy adults with a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines is a short-sighted way of thinking,” said Elin Hoffmann Dahl, infectious diseases medical adviser to Medecins Sans Frontieres’ access campaign.
“With the emergence of new variants, if we continue to leave the majority of the world unvaccinated, we will most definitely need adjusted vaccines in the future,” Dahl told Reuters.
Last week, Israeli President Isaac Herzog received a third dose of coronavirus vaccine, kicking off a nationwide campaign to provide booster doses to people over the age of 60.
In July, the United States agreed to purchase 200 million additional doses of Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech to aid in paediatric vaccination and possible booster shots.
Health officials in the United States were still debating whether a booster dose was necessary.