Covid booster distribution is 'scandal' as poor nations continue to wait: WHO

Unequal distribution of Covid-19 boosters in rich countries, as many poor countries struggle to get even their first shots is a "scandal" that must end, says WHO

Photo courtesy: IANS
Photo courtesy: IANS
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IANS

The unequal distribution of Covid-19 boosters in rich countries, as many poor countries struggle to get even their first shots is a "scandal" that must end, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.

At a media briefing on Friday, Ghebreyesus said that countries with high vaccination rates are continuing to stockpile booster doses, while poor countries continue to wait.

"Every day, there are six times more boosters administered globally than primary doses in low-income countries," Ghebreyesus said.

"This is a scandal that must stop now," he added.

The WHO chief criticised the distribution of boosters to healthy adults saying that "it makes no sense to give boosters to healthy adults, or to vaccinate children, when health workers, older people and other high-risk groups around the world are still waiting for their first dose."

However, he said that there is an exception -- immunocompromised individuals.

Inequitable vaccine distribution has hit Africa particularly hard, where just 6 per cent of the continent's population is fully vaccinated against Covid, the WHO's Regional Office for Africa reported as of October 28.

"Vaccines alone will not end the pandemic, but we cannot end the pandemic unless we solve the global vaccine crisis," Ghebreyesus said.


The WHO previously set a goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of the population of every country by the end of the year, but more than 100 countries are currently short of the target, WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said at the briefing, CNBC reported.

Swaminathan added that the WHO would likely miss that goal unless COVAX, the WHO's initiative for providing Covid shots for at least 20 per cent of countries' populations, received approximately 500 million more doses to distribute.

Just five countries in Africa have vaccinated more than 35 per cent of their populations, including Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritius, according to Our World in Data, which compiles vaccination figures from official public reports. But those reports also indicate that the majority of African nations have fully vaccinated less than 10 per cent of their populations.

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