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WHO calls for pause in COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, more equitable global vaccine distribution

WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Posted at 11:37 AM, Sep 08, 2021

The World Health Organization on Wednesday called for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots until the end of 2021 in the hopes of prioritizing initial doses for people in countries where access to the shots remains limited.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, called for the pause in booster shots Wednesday during a press briefing on the agency's response to the virus COVID-19.

"For now, we do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated," Tedros said.

The call for a moratorium on booster shots comes about a month after Tedros called for a pause in booster shots until the end of September. He said Wednesday he was extending the moratorium because there had been "little change" in global vaccine equity.

Tedros added Wednesday that countries should hold off on booster programs until every country is able to vaccinate at least 40% of its population.

Late last month, the Biden administration announced recommendations that all adults who had received an mRNA vaccine should seek out a booster shot eight months after their second vaccine shot.

The White House says the booster shot program will likely begin Sept. 20, pending FDA approval. On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that he believed Pfizer's booster shots would be approved by Sept. 20, though Moderna's boosters may not be approved by the target date.

During a White House press briefing in August, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the U.S. could both issue booster shots to its citizens and also donate to the world vaccine supply, adding that picking or the other was a "false choice."

Tedros has made vaccine distribution equity a focus of the WHO throughout the pandemic. In May, he called the disparity of vaccine distributions in rich and developing countries "grotesque."

While vaccine distribution between wealthy and developing countries remains stark, the U.S. and the Biden administration have been among the world leaders in vaccine distribution. The U.S. has delivered more than 100 million doses of vaccine to developing countries in recent months and has committed to donating 500 million doses over the next year.