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Plans to administer booster shots to citizens of wealthy nations “make a mockery of vaccine equity,” the Africa Regional Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti called out “richer countries,” saying they “hoard” vaccines while so many in Africa are still unvaccinated.
Moeti’s comments came just a day after the Biden administration refuted claims that the decision to offer booster shots is premature.
“I know there’s some world leaders who say America shouldn’t get a third shot until other countries get their first shot. I disagree,” President Joe Biden said on Wednesday, VOA reported
“We can take care of America and help the world at the same time,” he said, VOA reported.
“Moves by some countries globally, to introduce booster shots threaten the promise of a brighter tomorrow for #Africa. As some richer countries hoard vaccines, they make a mockery of vaccine equity.” – Dr @MoetiTshidi #COVID19
— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) August 19, 2021
On Wednesday, the US announced most Americans vaccinated more than eight months prior would receive a booster dose as early as September. People with compromised immune systems are already getting booster shots in the US.
As Insider’s Aria Bendix reported, experts are divided on whether those under the age of 60 who aren’t immunocompromised would already need boosters.
While the US announces plans to offer third shots, just 2% of the 1.3 billion people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated, and the more contagious Delta variant has now reached 40 of 54 countries in the continent, Moeti said on Thursday.
According to Our World in Data, only 1.3% of people in low-income countries have received at least one shot of vaccine, compared to 58% in high-income countries.
The US will be using 100 million boosters in the coming months, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday.
“We will be donating more than 200 million, twice that number, additional doses to countries,” he said, adding that the US intends to donate more than 600 million doses abroad.
The WHO has vocally dismissed the idea that boosters are needed at this time, calling for a moratorium on third doses through to the end of September.
The US isn’t the only high-income country to have given booster shots. Israel has inoculated over a million people with a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine, starting with those over 60. France, Germany, and the UK plan to administer boosters to vulnerable populations, Nature News reported.
Early data from Israel’s Maccabi Healthcare Services on Wednesday, suggests that a third dose of Pfizer reduced the risk of infection by 86% and the risk of severe disease by 92% among over 60s.