Brussels (Brussels Morning) The World Health Organization (WHO) criticised the push for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots in wealthy countries as unscientific, noting that poor nations have no vaccines while wealthy ones are pushing for a third jab.
Michael Ryan, WHO Health Emergencies Programme head, pointed out at a press conference in Geneva “we’re planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown,” according to DW reporting on Wednesday.
Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, stressed that the data does not support the push for vaccine boosters for everyone and added that leaving billions of people in poor nations unvaccinated could make the situation worse.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out “what is clear is that it’s critical to get first shots into arms and protect the most vulnerable before boosters are rolled out.”
J&J under fire
He criticised US pharmaceuticals company Johnson & Johnson over reports that it exported COVID-19 vaccines from South Africa to EU countries to be administered as boosters, stressing that it is unconscionable to pursue profit while poor nations remain unprotected.
Tedros warned that “the divide between the haves and have-nots will only grow larger if manufacturers and leaders prioritise booster shots over supply to low- and middle-income countries.”
“Vaccine injustice is a shame on all humanity and if we don’t tackle it together, we will prolong the acute stage of this pandemic for years when it could be over in a matter of months,” he concluded.
Earlier this week, the US announced plans to offer booster shots to all citizens, not just those at risk.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stressed “our plan is to protect the American people, to stay ahead of the virus.”
US and Israeli scientists point out that effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines declines over time, which is why booster shots are needed.