The decision by some of the richer countries to roll out Covid-19 booster shots for their citizens makes a mockery of vaccine equity, Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said on Thursday.
At a press briefing on the pandemic situation in the continent, Moeti said that only 2% of Africans have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 so far.
“High-income countries have already, on average, administered more than 103 [vaccine] doses per 100 people, whereas in Africa that number stands at six,” Moeti said.
Booster shots are jabs given to ramp up the number of antibodies provided by vaccines that wane over a period of time.
Moeti’s comment came as several countries have already begun their booster shot programmes or have chalked out plans for it.
The United States, on Wednesday cleared booster shots for all citizens from September 20, Reuters reported.
A day earlier, United Kingdom Health Secretary Sajid Javid suggested that those above 50 years of age were likely to be offered third shots from early September. However, the move has not yet received a green signal from the country’s inoculation advisory body Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, according to The Guardian.
Israel started its booster shot programme for those aged above 60 in July, while Russia started offering booster shots in July to people vaccinated six months ago or more, according to ReutersFrance and Germany will also begin giving a third dose of coronavirus vaccines to the country’s elderly and vulnerable population from September.
Sweden, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have also finalised on booster shot regimens.
Meanwhile, Moeti is not the first to have voiced concerns about vaccine inequity as a result of booster jabs. Earlier this month, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a pause in administering booster shots. He said the move would ensure the vaccination of at least 10% of the population in every country.
The WHO chief had pointed out that more than 80% of the 400 crore Covid-19 vaccines administered globally till early-August went to high and upper-middle income countries.
More recently, the health body’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan warned of “even more dire situations” due to booster shot programmes, AP reported. At a press briefing in Geneva on Wednesday, Swaminathan said that leaving billions of people in the developing world unvaccinated could lead to emergence of new variants of the virus.