WHO calls for COVID-19 booster shot moratorium until 2022

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday called for rich countries to refrain from giving people booster doses of coronavirus vaccines until at least 2022.

WHO Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last month said wealthy nations should put a pause on boosters until the end of September. But that plea was largely ignored.

“We have been calling for vaccine equity from the beginning, not after the richest countries have been taken care of,” Tedros said during a news conference. “I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”

What’s the goal: Tedros said the WHO’s targets are to support every country vaccinating at least 10 percent of its population by the end of this month, at least 40 percent by the end of this year and 70 percent of the world’s population by the middle of next year.

Almost 90 percent of high-income countries vaccinated at least 10 percent of their populations, and more than 70 percent have vaccinated at least 40 percent of their populations.

But “not a single low-income country has reached either target,” Tedros said.

Why it matters: Much of the developing world still doesn’t have access to the vaccines, despite global commitments and promises. Wealthy countries, including the U.S., are pushing ahead with boosters anyways. The Biden administration is debating internally with health officials about the details; experts have raised serious concerns about the ethics and whether the evidence even shows that the extra shots are necessary. But based on White House comments, the end goal is for boosters to start rolling out Sept. 20.