W.H.O. Chief Calls for Halt to Coronavirus Booster Shots Until 2022

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / POOL / AFP) (Photo …
FABRICE COFFRINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday urged countries worldwide to stop administering booster shots of Chinese coronavirus vaccines to their populations until at least the end of 2021 as part of his ongoing efforts to preserve the global vaccine supply for use in less developed nations.

“[T]oday I am calling for an extension of the moratorium until at least the end of the year, to enable every country to vaccinate at least 40 percent of its population,” Tedros told reporters at a press briefing September 8.

A booster shot is an additional dose of a vaccine beyond its recommended full dosage. Several countries, including the U.S., have already begun offering their populations booster shots of Chinese coronavirus vaccines, while many more have announced plans to roll out such drives in the near future.

Tedros has called for nations around the globe to temporarily halt the administration of Chinese coronavirus booster shots on two previous occasions, first on August 4 and again on August 23. He argued on August 4 for a “moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September to enable at least 10 percent of the population of every country to be vaccinated.”

After observing that the international community had failed to make significant progress toward this goal last month, Tedros called for a “two-month moratorium” on booster shots from August 23, extending his appeal through the end of October.

On both August 4 and August 23, Tedros and other W.H.O. officials cited a lack of significant evidence that booster shots offer recipients additional immunity against the Chinese coronavirus when arguing against their administration.

“[S]o far there is no evidence that a booster dose adds immune benefits to people who already have the full vaccination course,” Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), told reporters at the W.H.O. press conference on August 4, shortly after Tedros made his original appeal against the use of extra vaccines.

“[T]here is a debate about whether booster shots are effective at all,” Tedros noted on August 23.

The W.H.O. echoed these sentiments September 8 during the U.N. health body’s latest press briefing.

“Third doses may be necessary for the most at-risk populations, where there is evidence of waning immunity against severe disease and death, such as the very small group of immunocompromised people who did not respond sufficiently to their initial doses or are no longer producing antibodies,” Tedros acknowledged Wednesday.

“But for now, we do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated,” he said.

“We’re not asking to withhold something for which there is a strong set of evidence that this is needed,” Kate O’Brien, the director of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals at the W.H.O., told reporters at the September 8 press conference.

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