As President Biden once again pushes booster doses on the population with his latest winter plan, the WHO is once again pushing back against this zealousness for vaccines and booster shots by declaring that booster shots shouldn't be prioritized by the developed governments that control the vaccine supply. Instead, the US and other developed nations should focus on allowing drugmakers like Pfizer and Moderna to distribute more shots in the developing world, because hoarding boosters and focusing primarily on their own populations is a denial of the WHO's 'science'.
SAGE, the WHO's advisory group on COVID immunization strategies, issued a report Thursday expressing concern that programs like Biden's, which includes more vaccine buys and vaccination centers to improve "access" while unused doses rot on shelves across the US, risk worsening the global COVID situation because they worsen vaccine 'inequality'.
Specifically, SAGE expressed concern that "broad-based administration of booster doses risks exacerbating vaccine access" by diverting supply from under-vaccinated countries to ones with already high percentages of vaccinated people.
And it's not just the WHO's advisors that are worried about booster programs getting out of hand (as Israel gears up to start doling out its second round of doses). Ultimately, these programs like the US's and Israels can do more harm than good, as WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained Wednesday.
Dr. Tedros said that with 20% of vaccine supplies going toward boosters, "blanket booster programs are likely to prolong the pandemic rather than ending it." By diverting the vaccine supply to countries with high levels of immunity, vaccine producers and those buying boosters from them are giving the virus "more opportunity to spread and mutate."
"No country can boost its way out of the pandemic," he added.
Of course, the US is far from alone in having a booster program, even as it remains among the most heavily vaccinated countries in the world. According to SAGE’s report, at least 126 countries have already issued guidance on booster or additional vaccination and more than 120 have started boosting their populations.
However, "the majority of these countries are classified as high-income, or upper middle-income. No low-income country has yet introduced a booster vaccination programme," the report said.
The WHO's goal is for all 194 member states to have at least 40% of their population vaccinated by the end of 2021, with 70% vaccinated by mid-2022. Only half of all member states have reached 40%.