The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) is once again calling on rich countries to delay the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine boosters.
Instead, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference on Tuesday that wealthier countries should provide extra doses to low-income countries facing vaccine shortages, especially those in Africa.
It is the third time Tedros has spoken out against the spread of booster vaccinations through rich countries, calling for a pause in the distribution of the third injections until the end of September and then until the end of the year.
In Africa, only 3.7 percent of people have been fully vaccinated against the virus because many poorer countries on the continent don’t have enough doses or the infrastructure needed to set up a massive operation like many richer countries have.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured), director-general of the World Health Organization, calls on developed countries to halt the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine boosters
African countries have fallen far behind the global vaccine pace. Chad is one of the worst, with less than half of a percent of residents having received at least one shot of a vaccine. Less than 6% of Africans have had at least one chance in total
“There are countries with less than two percent vaccination coverage, most of them in Africa, that don’t even get their first and second doses,” Tedros said.
“And starting with boosters, especially those to healthy populations, is really not good.”
Africa has fallen far behind in the global rollout of vaccines.
Less than six percent of Africans have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and less than four percent have been fully vaccinated.
Worldwide, 42 percent of people have received at least one injection and 30 percent are fully vaccinated.
The gap between Africa and many western developed countries is even wider: 71 percent of people in the UK and 62 percent of people in the US have received at least one injection.
In particular, some African countries are falling behind, such as Chad, which has partially vaccinated less than 0.5 of the population.
Cameroon has partially vaccinated 1.3 percent if the population and the Democratic Republic of Congo is at 3.5 percent.
Aim Masiyiwa, the African Union’s Special Envoy for COVID-19, told CNBC that trade restrictions largely prevent countries on the continent from accessing the doses they need.
“We want access to purchases,” Masiyiwa told CNBC.
“We appeal to those countries that have imposed export restrictions – export of vaccines as finished products, export of ingredients, drugs.
“These restrictions are even more urgent for us today than intellectual property, because the intellectual property won’t give us a vaccine tomorrow.”
However, the western world, including the US, has made some efforts to help countries in Africa and the rest of the developing countries.
The White House has donated 111,000,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to: 65 countries – of which 26 in Africa.
But there are plans to roll out boosters in the US, with the White House targeting September 20 as the day to roll out the third injections of the vaccines.
That deadline could be missed if boosters are not approved in time by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the advisory committee of the Centers for Diease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Some in the United States were also vocal against vaccine boosters, preferring to donate even more doses abroad.
A group of 18 senior FDA officials released a report Monday against vaccine boosters, stating that science currently does not support giving boosters to healthy, fully vaccinated Americans.
Because the vaccines still prevent hospitalizations and deaths from Covid, the shots are doing their job, officials say.
Donating vaccines abroad has more than just humanitarian value.
Ensuring that people in other countries are vaccinated can reduce the overall spread of the virus, limiting the chances of variants in other countries and subsequently causing chaos in the US.
The Delta variant — which caused the number of cases to increase fivefold in the US from early July to late August — originated in India before hitting America.