No country can boost its way out of Covid-19 pandemic: WHO chief Tedros

Leaving the poorer countries unvaccinated could see new and more dangerous variants emerge.

Belmont Lay | December 23, 2021, 06:10 PM

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The World Health Organization chief warned on Dec. 22 that no country can boost its way out of the pandemic.

Wealthy countries rush to booster, poorer countries don't even have first dose

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made his comments to reporters in light of wealthy countries rushing to roll out additional Covid-19 vaccine doses that might only serve to prolong the pandemic by deepening the inequity in access to inoculation, according to AFP.

Tedros insisted that the priority is to vaccinate vulnerable people everywhere rather than boostering.

More dangerous variants can emerge among unvaccinated

The UN health agency has slammed the glaring inequity as the chance of new, more dangerous variants emerging increases by allowing Covid-19 to spread unabated in some places.

"Blanket booster programmes are likely to prolong the pandemic, rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate," Tedros said.

He had previously called for a temporary halt to booster doses for vaccinated, healthy people.

The booster should only continue when at least 40 per cent of people in all countries had received a first jab.

Lopsided distribution of vaccines

Even though the 40 per cent figure has been reached, it is achieved as a result of lopsided distribution of vaccines, where the wealthy countries received many more jabs compared to poorer countries.

This was due to distortions in global supply, causing only half the world's countries to hit and surpass the 40 per cent benchmark, leaving poorer countries' populations barely vaccinated.

According to UN figures, about 67 per cent of people in high-income countries have had at least one vaccine dose.

On the other hand, not even 10 per cent of those in low-income countries have received a shot.

Tedros highlighted the discrepancy by saying that three in four health workers in Africa remain unvaccinated.

Boostering in light of Omicron

Tedros' comments are in light of the Omicron variant's spread worldwide, with 106 countries detecting the virus.

But Tedros insisted that the vaccines are effective against both the Delta and Omicron variants.

The UN health agency also reminded countries and individuals to take all precautions as they head into the Christmas holidays.

"Boosters cannot be seen as a ticket to go ahead with planned celebrations," Tedros said.

Top photo via Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Facebook

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