The chief scientist of the World Health Organization is warning of “even more dire situations” worldwide in the coronavirus pandemic if high-income countries start administering vaccine boosters ahead of poorer countries without vaccines.
With the U.S. health officials recommending booster shots for all Americans who have already been vaccinated, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan expressed concern that leaving billions of people in the developing world unvaccinated could foster emergence of new variants, like the delta variant, that is driving new cases in the United States and beyond.
“We believe clearly that the data does not indicate that boosters are needed,” Swaminathan said at a news conference in Geneva. She expressed more understanding for a recent U.S. decision to administer boosters to people with weaker immune systems.
WHO officials have repeatedly expressed concerns that variants will continue to crop up in areas where the virus goes unchecked and called for vaccine equity and “solidarity” among countries.
Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, said: “If we think about this in terms of an analogy, we’re planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket.”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, says 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccine supply, while low-income countries have vaccinated “barely 2 percent of their people.” He says, “vaccine injustice is a shame on all humanity.”