In order to prevent the emergence of new coronavirus variants, the boss of the World Health Organisation has called for a two-month moratorium on administering Covid-19 booster jabs.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told media in Hungary’s capital Budapest today that he was “really disappointed” with the scope of vaccine donations worldwide as many countries struggle to provide first and second doses to more than small fractions of their populations while wealthier nations maintain growing vaccine stockpiles.
He called on countries offering third vaccine doses “to share what can be used for boosters with other countries so (they) can increase their first and second vaccination coverage”.
Several countries including the US, Israel and Hungary, as well as others in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, are already offering or planning to offer their populations Covid-19 booster jabs.
In early August, Hungary became the first country in the 27-member European Union to allow residents to sign up for a third dose, and more than 187,000 people have received one so far, according to government statistics.
Last week, US health officials announced plans to dispense booster jabs to all Americans in an effort to shore up protection against a surge in cases attributed to the Delta variant and signs that vaccines’ effectiveness is slipping.
The UN health agency has repeatedly called for rich nations to do more to help improve access to vaccines in the developing world.
Today, Tedros said that of the 4.8bn vaccine doses delivered to date globally, 75 per cent have gone to 10 countries while vaccine coverage in Africa is at less than 2%.
“Vaccine injustice and vaccine nationalism” increase the risk of more contagious variants emerging, he said.
“The virus will get the chance to circulate in countries with low vaccination coverage, and the Delta variant could evolve to become more virulent, and at the same time more potent variants could also emerge,” he said.
Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto told the news conference that Hungary has eight million doses of vaccine in storage, and has donated more than 1.5 million to other countries.
Tedros thanked Hungary for making those donations, adding: “We hope that you will do more, because no one is safe until everyone is safe.”