WHO Head Questions Whether Boosters Are “Effective at All”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pleaded with countries during a news conference in Hungary “to share what can be used for boosters” to help other places “increase their first and second vaccination coverage,” according to reporters at the event.
He argued that wealthy nations stockpiling the vaccine increases the risk that stronger variants will develop in countries with low inoculation rates.
Not only could the hyper infectious delta variant become “more virulent,” but “more potent variants could also emerge” if the virus gets “the chance to circulate in countries with low vaccination coverage,” Ghebreyesus warned.
Furthermore, the WHO director called into question whether booster shots are “effective at all,” a comment that comes days after the organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said “data today does not indicate that boosters are needed.”
Ghebreyesus said boosters should only be doled out to people with weak immune systems.
Ghebreyesus said Monday that 75% of the 4.8 billion vaccine doses delivered to date have gone to just 10 countries. Meanwhile, about a dozen countries and regions have partially vaccinated less than 1% of their populations, and across Africa less than 2% of people have been inoculated against the virus.
A growing number of wealthy countries, including the United States, have moved to offer vaccine top-ups despite ongoing debate over whether they are necessary. As they unveiled their plan to start rolling out a third dose in September (pending FDA and CDC approval), U.S. officials cited data showing diminishing protection against mild and moderate illness from the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines more than six months after inoculation. “We are concerned this pattern of decline we are seeing will continue in the months ahead, which could lead to reduced protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death,” explained U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. However, other experts have argued that countries pursuing boosters are making decisions prematurely based on incomplete data.
Research published in the journal Science last week backed up Ghebreyesus’ suggestion that stockpiling supplies could lead to new, possibly more dangerous variants of the virus and an increasing number of Covid-19 infections. Researchers found that sharing vaccine supplies could help alleviate long-term risks, reducing the overall number of cases long-term.