The World Health Organization on Wednesday called for a pause in administering a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as a booster shot, at least till September, Reuters reported.
In a press briefing, the UN body’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the move will ensure vaccination for at least 10% of the population in every country.
Pointing out vaccine inequity, the WHO chief said that so far, more than 80% of the 400 crore Covid-19 vaccines administered globally have gone to high and upper-middle income countries, even though they account for less than half of the world’s population.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant,” Tedros said. “But we cannot 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 that in May he had called for inoculating at least 10% of the population in each country by September. “We are now more than halfway to that target date, but we’re not on track,” he said.
The WHO chief added that high-income countries had administered around 50 doses for every 100 people in May, but that number has doubled since then. In contrast, low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people due to lack of supply, he said.
Multiple countries are at various stages of formulating their policy for a third dose of coronavirus vaccines.
Last week, Israeli President Isaac Herzog received a third shot of coronavirus vaccine, kicking off a campaign to give booster doses to people aged over 60 in the country.
In July, the United States also signed a deal with vaccine makers Pfizer-BioNTech to buy 20 crore additional doses of their Covid-19 jabs. These doses will be used to inoculate children, as well as possible booster shots, according to Reuters. However, the country’s health regulators are still assessing the need for a third dose.
The United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care also unveiled a plan in June to provide booster shots to some vaccine beneficiaries later this year and in 2022.
However, as Tedros pointed out on Wednesday, the procurement for booster doses come at the cost of leaving a large section of the population in poorer countries unvaccinated against the disease.
“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. “The fact that we are vaccinating healthy adults with a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccines is a short-sighted way of thinking.”