The head of the World Health Organization has urged wealthy nations to hold off on giving out COVID-19 booster shots until next year so that getting the vaccine to poorly-supplied countries doesn’t become “second or third priority.”
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday called for an extension of the organization’s booster “moratorium” to allow for more first doses of the vaccine to reach poorer countries.
“A month ago, I called for a global moratorium on booster doses, at least until the end of September to prioritize vaccinating the most at-risk people around the world who are yet to receive their first dose. There has been little change in the global situation since then,” Tedros said at a press briefing.
“So today, I’m calling for an extension of the moratorium until at least the end of the year to enable every country to vaccinate at least 40% of its population,” he said.
Tedros said he was “appalled” by comments from a top association of pharmaceutical manufacturers that there are enough vaccines to allow for both booster shots in wealthy countries as well as first doses in nations with shortages.
“Low- and lower-middle income countries are not the second or third priority. Their health workers, older people, and other at-risk groups have the same right to be protected,” Tedros said.
“I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”
The US has announced plans to start giving third shots to the general population in mid-September after making booster vaccines available last month to those with compromised immune systems.
Several other wealthy countries, including Britain, Denmark, France, Greece, Germany, and Spain, are considering or have already started to offer third shots of two-dose vaccines to vulnerable people.
Israel began offering third doses last week to vaccinated people as young as 12 in an effort to fight case surges driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.
“The third dose brings us to the level of protection achieved by the second dose, when it was fresh,” said Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health at Israel’s Health Ministry.
“That means, people are 10 times more protected after the third vaccine dose,” she added.
With Post wires