WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaking at a media briefing on COVID-19 on 22 December 2021, said, while some countries are now rolling out blanket booster programmes, only half of WHO’s Member States have been able to reach the target of vaccinating 40% of their populations by the end of the year, because of distortions in global supply.
“Enough vaccines were administered globally this year that the 40% target could have been reached in every country by September, if those vaccines had been distributed equitably, through COVAX and AVAT.
Today, COVAX shipped its 800 millionth vaccine dose. Half of those doses have been shipped in the past three months”.
WHO projections show that supply should be sufficient to vaccinate the entire global adult population, and to give boosters to high-risk populations, by the first quarter of 2022.
However, only later in 2022 will supply be sufficient for extensive use of boosters in all adults.
“So I call once again on countries and manufacturers to prioritize COVAX and AVAT, and to work together to support those who are furthest behind”.
WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, or SAGE, issued an interim statement on booster doses, saying that the focus of immunization must remain on decreasing death and severe disease, and expressed concern that blanket booster programmes will exacerbate vaccine inequity.
About 20% of all vaccine doses administered every day are currently being given as boosters or additional doses.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said 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.
“It’s important to remember that the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths are in unvaccinated people, not un-boosted people.
And we must be very clear that the vaccines we have remain effective against both the Delta and Omicron variants.
The global priority must be to support all countries to reach the 40% target as quickly as possible, and the 70% target by the middle of next year.
No country can boost its way out of the pandemic”.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said WHO is also working to identify the next generation of vaccines through the Solidarity Trial Vaccines.
The Solidarity Trial Vaccines is co-sponsored by WHO and the Ministries of Health of Colombia, Mali and Philippines, and aims to accelerate the evaluation of more COVID-19 vaccines, to expand the portfolio and improve access.