Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) has asked rich countries to halt the rollout of booster vaccines against COVID-19 until the end of September, so that poorer countries can get the dose.
“Even as millions of people are still waiting for their first dose, some wealthy countries are moving towards a booster dose,” said WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Globally, more than 4 billion vaccine doses have been given so far.
Of these, “more than 80 percent have gone to high- and upper-middle income countries”, accounting for less than half of the world’s population.
On the other hand, “low-income countries are only able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people” due to lack of supplies, Ghebreyesus said.
While governments are concerned about an increase in the delta variant and therefore want to protect their citizens with additional shots, “the world’s most vulnerable people remain vulnerable”.
“We cannot accept countries that have already overused the global supply of vaccines,” he said.
In late May, Ghebreyesus called for global support for a “sprint until September” so that every country can vaccinate at least 10 percent of its population by the end of September.
Ghebreyesus called for an immediate reversal of most vaccines going to high-income countries to low-income countries.
“WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September, so that at least 10 percent of each country’s population can be vaccinated,” he said.
He also called on G20 countries to “make a concerted commitment to support the WHO’s global vaccination goals”.
G20 countries, he said, are the largest producers, largest consumers and largest donors of COVID-19 vaccines.
Many countries in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, have not received vaccine doses. Meanwhile, Israel, France and Russia have already started the third dose, with Germany and the UK announcing plans to administer soon.