Despite the WHO’s call for a moratorium, some countries have been arguing for booster jabs not only for vulnerable people, but also for the wider population, citing signs of waning vaccine effectiveness against the highly transmissible Delta variant.
The WHO has acknowledged that an additional dose could be needed for immunocompromised people, but stresses that, for healthy people, the vaccines still seem very effective, especially in preventing severe disease.
“There is not a compelling case to move forward with a generalised recommendation for booster doses,” Kate O’Brien, the WHO’s vaccines chief, told the news conference.
The UN health agency has set a global target of seeing every country vaccinate at least 10 percent of its population by the end of this month, and at least 40 percent by the end of this year.
It wants to see at least 70% of the world’s population vaccinated by the middle of next year.
But Tedros complained that while 90% of wealthy countries have hit the 10% mark, and more than 70% have already reached 40%, “not a single low-income country has reached either target”.
He expressed outrage at a statement by a pharmaceutical industry organisation that the world’s seven wealthiest nations, known as the G7, now had enough vaccines for all adults and teenagers – and to offer boosters to at-risk groups – and so the focus should shift to dose sharing.
When I read this, I was appalled.
In reality, manufacturers and high-income countries have long had the capacity to not only vaccinate their own priority groups, but to simultaneously support the vaccination of those same groups in all countries.
WHO urges booster moratorium until 2022
The World Health Organization called on Wednesday for countries to avoid giving out extra Covid jabs until year-end, pointing to the millions worldwide who have yet to receive a single dose, AFP reports.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists:
I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.
Speaking from WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, Tedros urged wealthy countries and vaccine makers to prioritise getting the first jabs to health workers and vulnerable populations in poorer nations over boosters.
We do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated.
The WHO called last month for a moratorium on Covid-19 vaccine booster shots until the end of September to address the drastic inequity in dose distribution between rich and poor nations.
But Tedros acknowledged Wednesday that there had “been little change in the global situations since then. “So today I am calling for an extension of the moratorium until at least the end of the year,” he said.
High-income countries had promised to donate more than one billion vaccine doses to poorer countries, he said – but less than 15% of those doses have materialised.
We don’t want any more promises. We just want the vaccines.
Washington pushed back against the call for the moratorium, saying Joe Biden has “a responsibility to do everything we can to protect people in the United States.”
“We are doing both, we think we can do both and we will continue to do both,” said the White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Japan to extend emergency restrictions
Japan said on Thursday it will extend emergency Covid restrictions in Tokyo and other regions until the end of this month to curb infections and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, saying it was too early to let down its guard, Reuters reports.
Japan has been struggling with a fifth wave of the virus and last month extended its long-running curbs until 12 September to cover about 80% of its population.
However, the number of severe cases and the strain on the medical system have not eased sufficiently in Tokyo and surrounding areas to allow restrictions to be lifted.
The government will extend the measures until Sept. 30, including for Osaka, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said after meeting with an advisory panel, which ratified the plan.
Japan’s emergency curbs have centred on asking restaurants to close early and refrain from serving alcohol.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Japan said on Thursday it will extend emergency restrictions in Tokyo and other regions until the end of this month to curb infections and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, saying it was too early to let down its guard.
Meanwhile the World Health Organization called on Wednesday for countries to avoid giving out extra Covid jabs until year-end, pointing to the millions worldwide who have yet to receive a single dose.
More on these stories shortly. In the meantime here are the other key recent developments from around the world.
- The UK health secretary, Sajid Javid, asked about the possibility of a so-called “October firebreak” in England, said: “I haven’t even thought about that as an option at this point.”
- Javid also backed 12- to 15-year-olds being able to take Covid vaccines against the wishes of their parents, and said that he was ‘confident’ that a booster jab programme will start this month in the UK.
- In the UK, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has defended the planned introduction of Covid vaccine passports, telling MPs “this approach is designed to reduce transmission and serious illness”.
- Data shows that road traffic in the UK was at 100% of pre-crisis levels on Monday. Demand for buses also reached the highest level for a weekday since March 2020.
- The Covax vaccine-sharing initiative is set to receive 575m fewer anti-Covid shots this year than previously estimated, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) has warned.
- Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious disease in Germany, has said that the country could see a “massive momentum” in new Covid cases in autumn if the vaccination rate does not increase.
- The Czech Republic on Wednesday recorded 588 new cases of coronavirus, the highest daily tally since 25 May, as government officials predict a continued rise in infections.
- People will need to show a Covid-status certificate to enter bars, restaurants and fitness centres in Switzerland from Monday, the government ordered
- The city of Brussels is expected to introduce a Covid vaccine pass from 1 October, requiring residents to prove their health status to enter bars, restaurants and other public places.