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The World Health Organization is calling on wealthy nations to wait to give their citizens booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines until at least the end of September to give more people in other countries a chance to get a first dose of these lifesaving shots.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus, PhD, said that more than 80% of the 4 billion vaccine doses given around the world had been distributed to high-income countries, though they represent less than half the world’s population.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant,” Ghebreyesus said. “But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it, while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected.”
So far, high-income countries have given about 100 vaccine doses for every 100 people, while low-income countries have given just 1.5 doses for every 100 people.
“Which means, in some of the most vulnerable countries in the world with the weakest health systems, health care workers are working without protection … the older populations remain at high risk,” said Bruce Aylward, MD, the WHO’s senior adviser on organizational change.
But not everyone agrees.
Leana Wen, MD, a visiting professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, said there are doses already in the United States that won’t last long enough to be sent elsewhere.
“Yes, we need to get vaccines to the world (which also includes helping with distribution, not just supply), but there are doses expiring here in the U.S.,” she said on Twitter. “