The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for wealthy nations to pause their plans on ordering and distributing booster jabs to their citizens until at least September. The reason the UN health agency is calling for this halt is that they want to address the vaccine inequity currently happening where developed countries are far ahead of their vaccinations compared to poorer countries.
Tedros Adhanom, WHO Director-General, says that “we need an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low-income countries.” The moratorium would need to last at least two months until the end of September in order to meet the agency’s goal of vaccinating at least 10% of each country’s population. The WHO chief gave a reminder that G20 nations have a leadership role to play as they are the biggest producers, consumers, and donors of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The entire world is in the middle of this and as we’ve seen with the emergence of variant after variant, we cannot get out of it unless the whole world gets out of it together, and with the huge disparity in vaccination coverage, we’re simply not going to be able to achieve that,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, the DG’s senior advisor. He also added that Tedros plans to vaccinate 40% of the world by December and 70% by the middle of 2022.
The request comes after Israel and Germany announced that they would start giving out booster jabs to their population soon while the Dominican Republic became one of the first countries to give the third dose last month. The US has rejected WHO’s call, saying that it’s a “false choice” and that they had donated more than 110 million doses of vaccines around the world, more than any other country.
The gap in vaccine distribution is jarring, seeing as how only 1.8% of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, compared with nearly 50% in both the EU and the US, according to Our World in Data. Khairy Jamaluddin, coordinating minister for the immunisation programme, has repeatedly rebuked rich countries for hoarding vaccines, causing poor and less developed countries to have to wait for staggered deliveries. “Poor countries, less developed countries, are left to drown,” said the minister.
Khairy recently revealed that Malaysia is already in talks with vaccine manufacturers to procure the third dose for Malaysians in 2022. Booster vaccine jabs are considered important to further strengthen immunity as various countries are now seeing new waves of infections from the Delta variant of the virus. According to new data from Pfizer, a third shot of the vaccine boosts protection against the Delta variant by five times more.