WHO calls for moratorium on COVID-19 booster shots in wealthy countries
WHO has called for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine boosters until at least the end of September to enable lower income countries to raise their vaccination rates.
The plea came from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, who said Wednesday that the world needs “an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries to the majority going to low-income countries.”
His comments came amid a rise in infections caused by the delta variant and a debate about the usefulness of booster shots, including in the United States, where health officials have said they are not yet necessary.
Still, COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have moved forward with their booster programs for months, including Pfizer and BioNTech, who have indicated that they will seek authorization from the FDA for a booster shot. (The AMA recently announced an update to COVID-19 vaccine CPT codes to include a new code for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.)
“I understand the concerns of all governments to protect their people from the delta variant, but we cannot and we should not accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected,” Tedros said during a media briefing.
According to Tedros, 80% of the 4 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine that have been administered so far have gone into the arms of people in high-income or upper-middle-income countries, which account for less than half of the world’s population.
He said high-income countries are administering around 100 doses for every 100 people, compared with 1.5 doses per 100 people in low-income countries.
“These populations need vaccines urgently, especially health workers, older people and other vulnerable groups, Tedros said. “And yet, even while hundreds of millions of people are still waiting for their first dose, some rich countries are moving toward booster doses.”