By Vatican News staff writer
The head of the World Health Organization has renewed his push to stall the administering of booster shots of Covid-19 vaccines as a means of reducing global vaccine inequality and preventing the emergence of new coronavirus variants.
Speaking to reporters in Hungary’s capital of Budapest on Monday, the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus expressed disappointment with the scope of vaccine donations around the world, as many poorer countries struggle to provide first and second Covid-19 vaccine doses to fractions of their populations, while wealthier nations maintain growing stockpiles.
He called on countries considering third vaccine doses to “share what can be used for boosters with other countries so (they) can increase their first and second vaccination coverage.”
Earlier in August, Dr. Ghebreyesus had called for a two-month moratorium on Covid-19 booster shots, saying that the global priority should be on increasing supplies to countries that are still struggling to protect health workers and the aged.
Disparity in global vaccination efforts
Several countries, including the US, Hungary, and Israel, as well as some in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, are already preparing to offer Covid-19 booster shots to their populations.
Last week, the US announced plans to dispense booster shots to Americans in an effort to bolster protection against a surge in cases suspected to be linked to the delta variant.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ghebreyesus said that of the 4.8 billion vaccine doses delivered to date globally, 75% have gone to only 10 countries while vaccine coverage in Africa is at less than 2%.
As of Tuesday, global data shows that 32.7 percent of the world population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 24.6 percent is fully vaccinated. In low-income countries, only 1.4 percent have received at least one dose.
“Vaccine injustice and vaccine nationalism” increase the risk of more contagious variants emerging, Dr. Ghebreyesus noted.
“The virus will get the chance to circulate in countries with low vaccination coverage, and the delta variant could evolve to become more virulent, and at the same time more potent variants could also emerge,” he said.
Pope Francis’ appeal
Pope Francis has repeatedly called for equal access to Covid-19 vaccines, especially for the most marginalized and needy in all regions of the world.
Last week, in a video message produced in conjunction with the Ad Council, the Holy Father launched an appeal for people to get vaccinated with approved Covid-19 vaccines, calling it “an act of love”.
He noted that social and political love is built up through “small, individual gestures capable of transforming and improving societies” and added that “getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.”