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WHO calls for moratorium on COVID-19 booster injections so other countries can catch up

GENEVA (AP) – The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday called for a moratorium on the administration of COVID-19 vaccine boosters to ensure the availability of doses in countries where few people have received their first injections.

The Director General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, launched this appeal mainly to the richest countries which have largely surpassed the developing world in the number of vaccinations. He said wealthier countries administered around 100 doses of coronavirus vaccine per 100 people on average, while low-income countries – hampered by a lack of supply – provided only about 1.5 doses per 100 people.

WHO officials say the science is not proven whether giving booster vaccines to people who have already received two doses of the vaccine is effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

The United Nations health agency has repeatedly called on rich countries to do more to help improve access to vaccines in developing countries. He argued that no one is safe until everyone is safe, because the longer and wider the coronavirus circulates, the greater the chance that new variants will emerge – and prolong a global crisis. in the fight against the pandemic.

The agency lacks the power to demand countries to act, and many in the past have ignored its calls on issues such as donating vaccines, limiting cross-border travel and taking action to increase vaccine production in developing countries.

Tedros highlighted a WHO target he announced in May to ensure that 10% of the population in all countries receive vaccines against the coronavirus.

“As a result, the WHO is calling for a moratorium on recalls until at least the end of September to allow at least 10% of the population in each country to be vaccinated,” he said in a statement. press conference.

To help calm the pandemic, WHO has focused on immunizing older people, health workers and other target populations in many countries before the implementation of the booster campaigns.

Dr Bruce Aylward, special advisor to Tedros, said the moratorium concerned a call for countries considering booster doses to “put on hold” such policies “until and unless the rest of the world is caught.” in the fight against the pandemic.

“As we have seen with the emergence of variant after variant, we can only get out of it if the whole world comes out of it together. And with the huge disparity in immunization coverage, we’re just not going to be able to do it, ”Aylward said.

Israel, France, Germany and many countries in the Middle East have already started administering boosters, and other countries, including the United States and Britain, are considering doing so following the l emergence of the highly transmissible delta variant.

Dr Katherine O’Brien, WHO’s head of vaccines, noted that a “very limited number” of countries are administering booster doses, although more are considering it.

“The evidence is changing. It moves. We don’t have a full body of evidence as to whether this is necessary or not, ”said O’Brien, adding that the main message was“ we need to focus on the most vulnerable people instead ”.

WHO officials reiterated their call for global “solidarity” to help fight the coronavirus pandemic and called on rich countries and businesses to help them.

“We need everyone’s cooperation, especially the handful of countries and companies that control the global vaccine supply,” Tedros said, speaking in particular to the influential Group of 20 major economies. “The G-20 has a vital leadership role to play as the countries that are the biggest producers, biggest consumers and biggest donors of COVID-19 vaccines. “

He urged the G-20, which is currently chaired by Italy, to make “concrete commitments to support global immunization goals”.

“We call on all who have influence – Olympic athletes, investors, business leaders, religious leaders and every individual in their own families and communities – to support our call for a moratorium on booster injections until at less at the end of September, ”Tedros said.

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