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WHO calls for halt to booster jabs amid 'shocking vaccine inequity'

A health worker prepares a dose of Covaxin vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center in New Delhi on September 14, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has denounced the “shocking inequity” in the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, urging the Western governments to put a halt to booster doses until at least the end of the year.

In an address to the 71st session of the Regional Committee for Europe, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that last year, the world was waiting for “a safe and effective vaccine” to be developed “and that if it was, it would be available equitably to all countries.”

“But the shocking inequity in the global distribution of vaccines is a stain on our collective conscience,” he said, expressing deep regret “that for the second year, we are not able to meet in person.”

Ghebreyesus said, “More than 5.5 billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally, but almost 80% of those have been in high- and upper-middle income countries.”

“That’s why I have called for a global moratorium on booster doses until at least the end of the year, to allow us to achieve our global vaccination targets,” he added.

Ghebreyesus said that the global targets “are to support every country to vaccinate at least 10% of its population by the end of this month, at least 40% by the end of this year, and 70% of the world’s population by the middle of next year.”

His remarks come after US President Joe Biden refused calls that the move to offer booster shots to the general public is premature.

"I know there's some world leaders who say America shouldn't get a third shot until other countries get their first shot. I disagree,” Biden said Wednesday.  

An expert review of scientific evidence to date has concluded that the wide distribution of boosters is “not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic.”

“Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” scientists from Food and Drug Administration and the WHO wrote in the peer-reviewed journal, The Lancet, on Monday.

Earlier, the Africa Regional Director of the WHO also said that wealthy nations decision over the booster jabs "make a mockery of vaccine equity.”

Matshidiso Moeti said the wealthy nations "hoard" vaccines while so many in Africa are still un-vaccinated.

While the US announces plans to offer third shots, just 2% of the 1.3 billion people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated.

He said the more contagious Delta variant has now reached 40 of 54 countries in the continent.

France, Germany, and the United Kingdom also plan to administer booster jabs to “vulnerable populations.”

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