WHO demands: first vaccinate the rest of the world

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for possible booster vaccinations to be suspended by the end of September so that more people in low-income countries can initially be vaccinated. According to the organization’s general director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, more than four billion doses of vaccine have been given around the world, but 80 percent of them went to richer countries.

While the high-income countries gave almost 100 vaccinations per 100 people, in the poorer countries it was only 1.5 per 100 people. “I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant,” said Tedros. “But we cannot accept that countries that have already used most of the world’s vaccine supply are consuming more of it while leaving the world’s most vulnerable people unprotected.”

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More from MIT Technology Review

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A moratorium on booster vaccinations until the end of September would allow at least ten percent of the population of each country to be vaccinated. Like the WHO also announced on August 3, the number of illnesses and deaths in Africa is currently skyrocketing as the delta variant is spreading uncontrollably. The number of deaths has risen 80 percent in the past four weeks alone, while less than two percent of the continent’s population is fully vaccinated.

The latest WHO intervention comes at a time when a number of countries have started or are considering booster vaccinations. Israel started giving the third vaccine last month. France, Germany and the United Arab Emirates have announced plans to launch a refresher program that could start this fall. Other countries like the UK and the US are at least considering that. The US has also bought additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine but has not yet made a decision on whether to start the booster.

The scientific evidence on whether booster vaccinations are necessary “is evolving, it is on the move,” said Kate O’Brien, WHO Director of Vaccination, at the conference to journalists. “But we don’t yet have a complete picture of whether they are necessary or not.” Pfizer published data in July indicating that a third vaccination offers strong additional protection against the Delta variant. However, the existing vaccination regimes have already shown good protection against all important variants that give cause for concern (“Variants of Concern”). However, WHO would like to draw attention to the fact that a larger proportion of the world’s population should be vaccinated before richer countries consider replenishing. The organization has set itself the goal of vaccinating 40 percent of the world’s population by the end of the year and up to 70 percent by mid-2022.

“We urgently need a shift away from the majority of vaccines going to high income countries. The majority should go to low-income countries, ”Tedros said. He urged vaccine manufacturers to focus on donations to the Covax consortium, which aims to bring vaccines to poorer countries. At the end of July, the WHO Director-General had already stressed that the program would need a large injection of funds to achieve its goals. According to the White House press secretary, however, the WHO is misrepresenting the situation. Like Jen Psaki to the News Agency AP said the US had enough vaccines to donate to poorer countries – and at the same time was able to offer booster vaccines to its own population if needed. The country is currently struggling with a plummeting vaccination rate, although at the same time the delta variant is causing more corona victims.


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