WHO calls for global halt on booster doses amid low vaccination rates in vulnerable countries

The World Health Organization is asking countries that are considering COVID-19 booster shots to hold off through at least September as people in many parts of the world remain unvaccinated, The Washington Post reports. 

"We cannot and should not accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it while the world's most vulnerable people remain unprotected," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, WHO director general, said during an Aug. 4 news conference. 

The WHO called for the international booster dose moratorium just 48 hours after Germany said Aug. 2 it would begin doling out booster shots in September to certain groups including those with immunocompromising conditions. A growing number of European nations, most of which have high vaccination coverage, also have plans for booster doses — a move critics say is immoral as some countries have yet to receive any shipments of the vaccine to inoculate their populations.

Some countries in Africa, which has the lowest vaccination rate of any continent, have yet to start mass vaccination campaigns, according to global data compiled by The New York Times. 

"It fits into the pattern of decisions we've seen from wealthy countries since the beginning of the pandemic," said Andrea Taylor, PhD, who is leading a study on global vaccine distribution at Duke University. "The wealthy countries are going to allow their citizens to go through the buffet and get seconds while half the world is still starving," she told the Post

Worldwide, 84 percent of shots have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while 0.3 percent have been given in low-income countries, according to the Times' data. 

The uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in countries with a lack of access to the vaccine could allow new variants to emerge, which could have global consequences, health officials have warned. 

In the U.S., federal health agencies do not currently recommend booster doses for the general public, though members of the CDC's vaccine safety committee recently signaled support for additional shots for immunocompromised people. 


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