Geneva: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has asked rich countries to pause the rollout of booster vaccines against COVID-19 till the end of September, to help poorer nations get doses.
“Even as 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.
Globally, more than 4 billion vaccine doses have, so far, been administered.
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 have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people, due to lack of supply”, Ghebreyesus said.
While governments are concerned about the surge in Delta variant and hence want to protect their citizens with additional shots, “world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected”.
“We cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it,” he said.
In late May, Ghebreyesus had called for global support for a “sprint to September”, to enable every country to vaccinate at least 10 percent of its population by the end of September.
Ghebreyesus called for an urgent reversal, from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low-income countries.
“WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September, to enable at least 10 percent of the population of every country to be vaccinated,” he said.
He also called the G20 countries to “make concrete commitments to support WHO’s global vaccination targets”.
G20 countries are, he said, the biggest producers, the biggest consumers and the biggest donors of COVID-19 vaccines.
Several countries in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, have not received vaccine doses. Meanwhile, Israel, France and Russia have already started a third dose, Germany and the UK have announced plans to administer soon.