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WHO calls for moratorium on booster Covid-19 vaccine shots till September-end

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on August 05, 2021

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus   -  REUTERS

WHO chief urges more equitable supplies to enable every country to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of its population.

The World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on Covid-19 vaccine boosters doses until September-end, to enable at least 10 per cent of every country’s population to be vaccinated.

While hundreds of millions of people are still waiting for their first dose, some rich countries are moving towards booster doses, said WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a strongly-worded statement. “So far, more than 4 billion vaccine doses have been administered globally. More than 80 per cent have gone to high- and upper-middle income countries, even though they account for less than half of the world’s population,”he pointed out.

“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But 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 people remain unprotected,” he said.

Calling on vaccine producers to prioritize WHO’s COVAX facility, Dr Tedros called on “Olympic athletes, investors, business leaders, faith leaders, and every individual in their own family and community – to support our call for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September.”

Dr Tedros’ statement comes, even as countries like Israel, Britain, German, the United Arab Emirates, among others, schedule a roll-out of booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. In effect tying up supplies of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, could have otherwise gone to underserved countries.

The WHO chief called on the handful of countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines to ensure a more equitable supply. “The G20 has a vital leadership role to play, as the countries that are the biggest producers, the biggest consumers and the biggest donors of Covid-19 vaccines,” he said.

Need an urgent reversal

Several low income countries are still waiting for supplies for their health workers, older people and vulnerable groups. “In late May, I called for global support for a “sprint to September”, to enable every country to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of its population by the end of September. We’re now more than halfway to that target date, but we’re not on track,”he said.

In May, high-income countries had administered around 50 doses for every 100 people. That number has doubled, he said, as high-income countries have now administered almost 100 doses for every 100 people. Meanwhile, low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people, due to lack of supply.

“We need an urgent reversal, from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low-income countries,”he said.

Published on August 04, 2021

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