WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Source: Reuters
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  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for countries to hold off on giving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to combat global vaccine inequity
  • While some countries such as the US, the UAE and Isreal have vaccinated more than half of their populations, lower-income nations lag behind
  • Haiti – the poorest nation in the Americas – received its first vaccines under the COVAX facility less than a month ago
  • WHO is asking for a pause on booster shots until the end of September, or until at least 10 per cent of every country’s population is vaccinated

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for countries to hold off on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots while much of the world’s population is yet to receive their first shot.

As the global infection tally surpassed 200 million cases on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called out the growing disparity in vaccination rates between richer and poorer nations.

“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.

Countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Germany and the US have fully vaccinated more than half their populations, and have all commenced or are discussing administering vaccine booster shots.

“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,” Mr Ghebreyesus said.

On the other hand, the WHO’s list of countries yet to fully vaccinate 1 per cent of their population is far from short. It includes Zambia, Malawi, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Gambia, Sudan, Mauritiana, Mali, Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Syria, South Sudan and Uganda.

Haiti – the poorest nation in the Americas – only received its first vaccines under the COVAX facility on July 14, 2021.

Back in May, Mr Ghebreyesus called for global support to enable every country to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of its population by the end of September. However, in his address yesterday, he said the world was very far off track from achieving this objective.

“Accordingly, WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September, to enable at least 10 per cent of the population of every country to be vaccinated.”

“To make that happen, we need everyone’s cooperation, especially the handful of countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines.”

Infectious disease experts also warn that if we leave vast swathes of the world’s population unvaccinated, we may yet see the mutation of further strains of the virus.

Elin Hoffmann Dahl, infectious diseases medical adviser to Medecins Sans Frontieres’ access campaign, told Reuters that vaccinating healthy adults with booster shots was a short-sighted approach.

“With the emergence of new variants, if we continue to leave the majority of the world unvaccinated, we will most definitely need adjusted vaccines in the future.”

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