WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The director-general of the World Health Organization is urging rich nations to hold off on COVID-19 booster shots until the end of the year.
- According to the WHO, about 5.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, but 80% of those have been given out in high- or upper-middle-income countries.
- WHO Chief Tedros is calling for an extension of the moratorium to enable every country to vaccinate at least 40% of its population.
The head of the World Health Organization WWHO) is calling on wealthy countries with large supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to stop offering booster shots until the end of the year.
Last month, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had called for a “moratorium” on booster shots through the end of September.
“There has been little change in the global situation since then, so today I am calling for an extension of the moratorium until at least the end of the year to enable every country to vaccinate at least 40% of its population,” Tedros said in a news conference Wednesday.
But wealthy nations — including Israel, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States — have already started or are preparing to offer boosters to their vulnerable citizens such as the elderly or those immunocompromised.
Tedros also said that he was “appalled” at comments by a leading association of pharmaceutical manufacturers who said vaccine supplies are high enough to allow for both booster shots and vaccinations in countries in dire need of shots but experiencing shortages.
“I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers,” The WHO chief told a news conference in Geneva.
The WHO chief said health ministers offered “clear support” during a meeting of the influential Group of 20 countries this month for a commitment to help WHO achieve its targets — to support every country to vaccinate at least 10 percent of its population by the end of this month, at least 40 percent by the end of this year and 70 percent of the world’s population by the middle of next year.
So far, about 5.5 billion coronavirus vaccines have been administered globally, but 80% of those have been to upper- and middle-income countries.
Wealthy nations, including the US, have offered to donate 1 billion vaccine doses to low-income countries, but only under 15% of those doses have “materialized,” Tedros said. He also noted that vaccine manufacturers have pledged to prioritize a U.N.-backed program to supply vaccines to the neediest people in the world.
“We don’t want any more promises, we just want the vaccines,” he said. “We have the tools, it’s clear what needs to happen, now is the time for true leadership, not empty promises.”