WHO Head Calls for Booster Moratorium 08/05 06:15
GENEVA (AP) -- The head of the World Health Organization called Wednesday
for a moratorium on administering booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines as a way
to help ensure that doses are available in countries where few people have
received their first shots.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the appeal mostly to
wealthier countries that have far outpaced the developing world in numbers of
vaccinations. He said richer countries have administered about 100 doses of
coronavirus vaccines for every 100 people on average, while low-income
countries -- hampered by short supplies -- have provided only about 1.5 doses
per 100 people.
WHO officials say the science is unproven about whether giving booster shots
to people who have already received two vaccine doses is effective in
preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
The U.N. health agency has repeatedly called for rich countries to do more
to help improve access to vaccines in the developing world. It has argued that
no one is safe until everyone is safe because the longer and more widely the
coronavirus circulates, the greater the chance that new variants could emerge
-- and prolong a global crisis in fighting the pandemic.
The agency has no power to require countries to act, and many in the past
have ignored its appeals on issues like donating vaccines, limiting
cross-border travel and taking steps to boost production of vaccines in
Tedros pointed to a WHO target he had announced in May seeking to ensure
that 10% of the populations in all countries receive vaccines against the
"Accordingly, WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the
end of September to enable at least 10% of the population of every country to
be vaccinated," he told a news conference.
To help take the heat out of the pandemic, WHO has been focusing on getting
vaccines to older adults, health care workers and other target populations in
many countries before booster shot campaigns are carried out.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, a special adviser to Tedros, said the moratorium was
about an appeal to countries considering booster doses to "put a hold" on such
policies "until and unless we get the rest of the world caught up" in the fight
against the pandemic.
"As we've seen from the emergence of variant after variant, we cannot get
out of it unless the whole world gets out of it together. And with the huge
disparity in vaccination coverage, we're simply not going to be able to achieve
that," Aylward said.
Israel, France, Germany and many Middle Eastern countries have already
started administering boosters, and other nations, including the United States
and Britain, are considering plans to do so in the wake of the emergence of the
highly transmissible delta variant.
Dr. Katherine O'Brien, WHO's vaccines chief, noted that a "very limited
number" of countries were giving booster doses though a larger number were
"The evidence is evolving. It's moving. We don't have a full set of evidence
around whether this is needed or not," O'Brien said, adding that the main
message was that "we need instead to focus on those people who are most
Asked about the WHO position, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called
it a "false choice" and suggested the United States could both donate vaccines
abroad and provide boosters at home.
"We announced just yesterday that we hit an important milestone of over 110
million vaccines donated to the world. That is more than any other country has
shared combined," she said. "We also, in this country, have enough supply, to
ensure that every American has access to a vaccine. We will have enough supply
to ensure, if the FDA decides that boosters are recommended for a portion of
the population, to provide those as well."
WHO officials reiterated their call for global "solidarity" to help battle
the coronavirus pandemic and appealed to wealthy countries and corporations to
"We need everyone's cooperation, especially the handful of countries and
companies that control the global supply of vaccines," Tedros said, appealing
in particular to the influential Group of 20 large economies. "The G-20 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 urged the G-20, which currently is chaired by Italy, to make "concrete
commitments to support global vaccination targets."
"We call on everyone with influence -- 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," Tedros said.