The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on countries to cancel Covid booster shots until at least the end of September in order to help ease the drastic inequity in dose distribution between rich and poor nations as well as help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it, while the world's most vulnerable people remain unprotected," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
The WHO said the moratorium would help towards the goal of vaccinating at least 10 percent of every country's population by the end of September.
"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," Tedros added.
High-income countries administered around 50 doses for every 100 people in May, and that number has since doubled, according to WHO. Low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people, due to lack of supply.
"We need an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries to the majority going to low-income countries," Tedros said.
#HealthWorkers, older people & other at-risk groups need #COVID19 vaccines now. @WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September, to enable at least 10% of the population of every country to be vaccinated. #VaccinEquity pic.twitter.com/6AwkppgbJj— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) August 4, 2021
- WHO switches to Greek alphabet for coronavirus variant names
- WHO seeks more information on Covid-19 origins, as China cooperation stalls
The US however swiftly shot down the proposal.
"We definitely feel that it's a false choice and we can do both," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, adding that the United States has donated more doses than any other country.
Germany and France too will go ahead with booster shots from September. French President Emmanuel Macron said France was working on rolling out third COVID-19 vaccine doses to the elderly and vulnerable from September.
"A third dose will likely be necessary, not for everyone straightaway, but in any case for the most vulnerable and the most elderly," Macron said on his Instagram account.
In countries categorised as high income by the World Bank, 101 doses per 100 people have been injected -- but in the 29 lowest-income countries, that figure drops to just 1.7 doses per 100 people.
Highly vaccinated Israel began rolling out a booster shot for over-60s last month, while Germany said Tuesday it would start offering third doses from September.
However WHO vaccines chief Kate O'Brien said there was no convincing evidence yet as to whether booster doses were actually necessary.