The World Health Organization is advising rich countries against ordering booster shots for their already vaccinated populations while poorer nations are yet to receive the first COVID-19 vaccines for their critical groups.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said deaths were on the rise from pandemic with the Delta variant becoming widely spread, and many countries had yet to receive enough vaccine doses to protect their health workers.
“The global gap in COVID-19 vaccine supply is hugely uneven and inequitable. Some countries and regions are actually ordering millions of booster doses, before other countries have had supplies to vaccinate their health workers and most vulnerable,” said Dr Tedros.
He singled out vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna as companies that were aiming to provide booster shots in countries where there were already high levels of vaccination.
The WHO chief said they should instead direct their doses to COVAX, the vaccine-sharing programme mainly for middle-income and poorer countries, adding that “the priority now must be to vaccinate those who have received no doses and protection.”
“I ask you, who would put firefighters on the frontline without protection? Who are most the vulnerable to the flames of the COVID-19 pandemic? The health workers on the frontlines, older persons and the vulnerable.”
WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan, said the global health body had so far not seen evidence showing that booster shots were necessary for those who have received a full course of vaccines.
“It has to be based on the science and the data, not on individual companies declaring that their vaccines need to be administered as a booster dose,” she said.
Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, said: “We will look back in anger, and we will look back in shame” if countries use precious doses on booster shots, at a time when vulnerable people are still dying without vaccines elsewhere.
In Kenya, a total of 1,547,092 people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 out of which 518,971 have received the second AstraZeneca shot.
Only two per cent of the adult population has been vaccinated in Kenya according to the ministry of Health.