World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus on Wednesday called for a moratorium on administering a third dose of Covid-19 vaccines as a booster shot till at least the end of the year.

Ghebreyesus made the remarks at a media briefing on the coronavirus situation.

On August 4, the global health body had called for a pause in administering booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines till at least September. Ghebreyesus had said that the move will ensure vaccination for at least 10% of the population in every country.

The WHO chief on Wednesday said that there has been little change in the global situation since then. “...So today I am 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.

Ghebreyesus acknowledged that the third dose of a Covid vaccine may be necessary for groups of people at the highest risk, where there is evidence of reducing immunity against severe disease and death. “But for now, we do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated,” he added.

The WHO chief said that poorer countries were “not the second or third priority”, and that high-risk groups in these countries have the same right to be protected as those in wealthy nations. “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,” he asserted.

Several countries are currently at various stages of formulating their policy for a third dose of coronavirus vaccines.

In July, Israel began offering booster doses to people above 60 years of age. Currently, it allows booster shots for people above 12 years of age, according to Reuters. Till now, 2.6 million people out of Israel’s total population of 9.3 million people have received three doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Last month, health officials in the United States recommended that all its citizens should get booster doses to enhance their protection against the virus, AP reported.

‘We don’t want any more promises’

Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said that there has been a lot of talk on vaccine equity, but too little action.

He noted that wealthy countries have promised to donate more than 1 billion vaccine doses, but less than 15% of those doses have arrived. He noted that vaccine manufacturers also promised to prioritise COVAX and low-income countries.

COVAX is an initiative by the WHO, the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation aimed at ensuring Covid-19 vaccine equity.

“We don’t want any more promises,” the WHO chief said. “We just want the vaccines.”

The WHO chief called on the world’s 20 leading economies to fulfil their dose-sharing pledges by the end of this month at the latest.