The World Health Organization is calling for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine boosters until at least the end of September as it would enable at least 10 percent of the population of every country to be vaccinated, its head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Tedros said, “I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it”.
“We need to focus on those people who are most vulnerable, most at risk of severe disease and death, to get their first and second doses,” WHO’s Katherine O’Brien told reporters.
The WHO boss asserted that G-20 nations had an important leadership role to play as those countries were the “biggest producers, the biggest consumers and the biggest donors of COVID-19 vaccines”.
But the United States on Wednesday rejected the appeal from the UN health agency arguing,“We definitely feel that it’s a false choice and we can do both.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday that the country had sufficient supply to continue distributing shots abroad while also ensuring that every American can be fully vaccinated.
Last week, Israeli President Isaac Herzog received a third shot of the coronavirus vaccine, kicking off a campaign to give booster doses to people aged over 60 as part of efforts to slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant in the country.
In July, the US signed a deal with Pfizer and German partner BioNTech to buy 200 million additional doses of their vaccines to help with pediatric vaccination as well as possible booster shots.
There have been calls to tackle a striking gap in global vaccine distribution as rich countries far outpace middle- and lower-income countries in the number of people jabbed.
A little more than 1.8 percent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, compared with nearly 50 percent in both the EU and the US, according to Our World in Data.
In countries categorised as high income by the World Bank, 101 doses per 100 people have been injected – with the 100-doses mark having been surpassed this week.
Whereas the figure drops to 1.7 doses per 100 people in the 29 lowest-income countries.
Unequal distribution has been a source of debate for months at the World Trade Organization as developing countries, headed by India and South Africa, have been pushing a proposal to temporarily lift intellectual property (IP) rights on vaccines to boost global manufacturing capacity.
Without IP, among other issues, manufacturing companies would not risk being sued for producing jabs without a licence from the vaccine-maker company.