WHO asks rich countries to stop booster dose program to enable greater vaccine supply to poorer countries

Some countries have already vaccinated more than half of their population, whereas vaccination has just begun in many countries. WHO argues that the gap in the level of immunization among the rich and poor countries could cause the emergence of newer mutant strains

August 05, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo : Pan American Health Organization

The World Health Organization has asked countries that plan to vaccinate their population with an additional third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to halt the plan at least until September to achieve vaccination of at least 10% of the world’s population. In a press conference on Wednesday, August 4, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while the concern of governments to protect their population against the Delta variant is understandable, “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 remain unprotected.”  

Commenting on the overall state of global vaccine inequality, Adhanom said that “so far more than 4 billion vaccines have been administered globally. More than 80% have gone to high and upper middle-income countries, even though they account for less than half of the world’s population.”

The call for a moratorium was issued after several countries, including Israel, Germany, and the UK, decided to give all its vulnerable population an additional shot as a “booster dose” to protect them from newer virus variants. Most of these countries have already vaccinated a substantial percentage of their population, whereas, in most African countries, the level of vaccination is negligible. 

Several other organizations have raised concerns over the rich countries’ decision to administer additional doses to their population when many countries are unable to get enough doses of the vaccine. 

The UK has already fully vaccinated at least 67% of its total population, and the average data for the European countries and the US is nearly 50%. In contrast, only 1.8% of the total population of the African continent is fully vaccinated. 

According to the WHO, in the high-income countries, 101 vaccine doses are given for every 100 people, whereas the data for the same in the 29 lowest income countries is 1.7 doses per 100 people. 

The WHO has argued that delay in vaccination in one part of the world can provide space for the emergence of new variants of COVID-19 and make the vaccination in other parts meaningless. They argue that no one is safe until everyone is safe as new variants among the low vaccinated societies can cause new waves in countries fully vaccinated and therefore called for “a moratorium on boosters until at least at the end of September, to enable at least 10% of the population of every country to be vaccinated.”