World

WHO chief urges halt to vaccine boosters until year-end

He 'will not stay silent' while millions have not had one dose of Covid-19 jab

GENEVA : The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday called for countries to avoid giving out extra Covid jabs until year-end, pointing to the millions worldwide who have yet to receive a single dose.

"I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world's poor should be satisfied with leftovers," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Dr Tedros urged wealthy countries and vaccine-makers to prioritise getting the first jabs to health workers and the vulnerable populations in poorer nations over boosters.

"We do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated," he said.

The WHO called last month for a moratorium on vaccine booster shots until the end of this month to address the drastic inequity in dose distribution between rich and poor nations.

But Dr Tedros acknowledged that there had "been little change in the global situations since then".

"So today I am calling for an extension of the moratorium until at least the end of the year," he said.

PROMISE

High-income countries had promised to donate more than one billion vaccine doses to poorer countries, he said - "but less than 15 per cent of those doses have materialised".

"We don't want any more promises," he said. "We just want the vaccines."

Washington pushed back against the call for the moratorium, saying President Joe Biden has "a responsibility to do everything we can to protect people in the United States".

"We are doing both, we think we can do both and we will continue to do both," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Despite the call for a moratorium, some countries have been arguing for booster jabs not only for vulnerable people but also for the wider population, citing signs of waning vaccine effectiveness against the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The WHO acknowledged an additional dose could be needed for immunocompromised people, but it stresses that, for healthy people, the vaccines still seem very effective, especially in preventing severe disease.

"There is not a compelling case to move forward with a generalised recommendation for booster doses," the WHO vaccines chief Kate O'Brien said.

WHO wants to see at least 70 per cent of the world's population vaccinated by the middle of next year. - AFP

WORLD