Story at a glance

  • WHO leaders on Wednesday reiterated their criticism of wealthy nations offering citizens third doses of coronavirus vaccines.
  • Only 1.3 percent of people of low- and middle-income countries have received at least one shot.
  • “The divide between the haves and have nots will only grow larger if manufacturers and leaders prioritize booster shots over supply to low- and middle-income countries,” said WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

World Health Organization (WHO) leaders criticized the push for coronavirus booster shots as millions across the globe await their first vaccine dose. 

“We’re planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single lifejacket,” said Mike Ryan, the director of the WHO’s health emergency program, prior to the Biden administration’s announcement that Americans will be eligible for a third shot in the coming months. 

Global data show that 24 percent of the world’s population is fully vaccinated. But only 1.3 percent of people of low- and middle-income countries have received at least one shot. 

“The fundamental, ethical reality is we’re handing out second life jackets while leaving millions and millions of people without anything to protect them,” Ryan said, according to The Guardian. 


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The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is working to make booster shots available to Americans by Sept. 20, as the delta variant surges across the country. Third doses for certain immunocompromised individuals were approved last week.  

“We are announcing our plan to stay ahead of this virus by being prepared to offer COVID-19 booster shots to fully vaccinated adults 18 years or older,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in a briefing on Wednesday. 

“This plan is pending the FDA conducting an independent evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issuing booster dose recommendations based on a thorough review of the evidence.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 51 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, while 60 percent received at least one dose.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who previously called for a global moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September, doubled down on his argument Wednesday. 

“What is clear is that it’s critical to get first shots into arms and protect the most vulnerable before boosters are rolled out,” Tedros said. “The divide between the haves and have nots will only grow larger if manufacturers and leaders prioritize booster shots over supply to low- and middle-income countries.” 


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Published on Aug 19, 2021