Giving wholesome individuals Covid booster vaccinations is “not proper,” says the WHO

Nurse Mary Ezzat delivers a Pfizer COVID-19 booster syringe to Jessica M. at the UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif., Thursday, August 19, 2021.

Jeff Gritchen | MediaNews Group | Orange County Register via Getty Images

World Health Organization officials again urged rich nations to stop distributing Covid vaccine booster doses in hopes of making more vaccinations available to poorer countries with delayed vaccination rates.

The WHO lacks sufficient scientific data to condone the widespread use of boosters, Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference on Tuesday. The organization has been working to clean up vaccine injustices since last winter, and on Wednesday called on world leaders to put a moratorium on the third dose by the end of the year to redirect excess vaccines to low-income countries .

“There are countries with less than 2% vaccination coverage, most of them in Africa, that don’t even get their first and second doses,” Tedros said. “And it’s really not right to start with boosters, especially giving healthy populations.”

In Africa, just under 3.5% of the eligible population are fully vaccinated, WHO officials said. The organization reiterated its support for booster doses for the immunocompromised but said Africa is on track to miss the director-general’s target of 10% vaccination rates in each country by the end of the year.

The rollout of boosters has already begun in the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 54% of the population is fully vaccinated. According to the CDC, more than 1.8 million boosters have been administered. If the WHO approves boosters, their distribution would require an investment of about $ 1 billion a year in Africa, Benedict Oramah, president and chairman of the board of the African Export-Import Bank, said at the briefing.

Although several nations have pledged to donate hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine to developing countries, trade restrictions have made it difficult for low-income countries to buy vaccines themselves, said Strive Masiyiwa, African Union special envoy on Covid-19. Removing these restrictions would help facilitate increased immunization across Africa, Masiyiwa said.

“We want access to shopping,” he said. “We call on those countries that have introduced export restrictions – exports of vaccines as finished products, exports of ingredients, pharmaceutical substances.”

“These restrictions are even more urgent to us than intellectual property today because intellectual property will not provide us with a vaccine tomorrow,” added Masiyiwa.

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