The World Health Organization has called for a temporary ban on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots until at least September end.
Earlier this year, Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla predicted that vaccine booster shots will likely be needed to protect against the emerging variants. However, it is unclear as to how effective a third dose will be in protecting against the mutating virus. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is yet to announce a recommendation for booster shots.
A vaccine booster shot is an additional dose given after completion of the regimen. In the case of Pfizer, it means the third dose and in the case of the single-dose J&J vaccine, it means a second dose. It acts by creating more antibodies and memory cells, leading to a greater immune response. Several vaccines require a booster shot; for example, a booster shot for the tetanus vaccine is given every 10 years.
The spread of the delta variant has led several countries to consider giving out booster doses to their most at-risk population. US, France, Germany, and the UK are all leaning towards handing out booster shots to the elderly and immunocompromised individuals. Recently, Israeli President Isaac Herzog also announced a campaign for the administration of booster shots to those aged 60 and above.
Halt, Says WHO
And while these rich countries plan for additional doses, some poor countries have not even received the first dose. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the world has administered more than 4 billion vaccine doses, However, over 80% of these have gone to high- or upper-middle-income countries, Moreover, as per Our World in Data, only 1.1% of those in low-income countries have received the first dose. Many believe that the unequal distribution of vaccines may have driven the spread and mutation of the virus.
In a press conference on August 4th, WHO’s director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced a moratorium on COVID vaccine boosters. This temporary ban is to last until at least the end of September. Dr. Tedros further emphasized that the halt would last until at least 10% of the population of every country has received the first dose.
As per the media briefing, in May, high-income countries administered approximately 50 doses for every 100 people; a number that has doubled since. On the other hand, low-income countries have only administered 1.5 doses for every 100 people. A gap that has severely affected the course of the disease in these countries.
Therefore, WHO is calling on vaccine producers and high-income countries to support the moratorium and WHO’s global vaccination targets.
Source: World Health Organization