WHO calls for extension of moratorium on Covid booster doses

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World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at the 73rd World Health Assembly at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, May 18, 2020. (WHO/Handout via Xinhua/IANS)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for an extension of a global moratorium on Covid-19 booster doses, with an aim to enable every country to vaccinate at least 40 per cent of its population.

“A month ago, I called for a global moratorium on booster doses at least until the end of September, to prioritise vaccinating the most at-risk people around the world who are yet to receive their first dose,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters here.

“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 per cent of its population,” he added.

In early August, the WHO called for such a moratorium as countries had been deliberating whether there’s a need for a booster jab against the fast-spreading Delta variant.

However, the latest forecast from COVAX, the WHO-led international vaccine campaign, has pointed to a 25 per cent reduction in the number of doses going through COVAX if without urgent action from G20 countries and vaccine manufacturers, according to Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO Director-General, at the briefing.

“We are in a situation where there’s an incredible outcry across the world about the huge equity gap on vaccines that’s only gotten worse since May,” he said.

According to WHO’s statistics, globally 5.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered, but 80 per cent have been administered in high- and upper-middle income countries.

Even though high-income countries have promised to donate more than one billion doses, less than 15 per cent of those doses have materialised.

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

He reiterated that third doses may be necessary for the most at-risk populations, but for now, “we do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated”.

He vowed not to stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.

During the G20 Health Ministers’ Meeting in Rome earlier this week, the WHO head requested countries to meet global vaccination targets by swapping near-term vaccine deliveries with COVAX, fulfilling dose-sharing pledges by the end of September, and facilitating the sharing of technology, know-how and intellectual property to support regional vaccine manufacturing.

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