The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 variants such as the delta strain is to get more initial shots to unvaccinated populations, not booster shots to the fully vaccinated.
At the agency’s regular briefing in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organization last week brought together 2,000 experts from around the world to debate the available data on COVID-19 boosters.
From that discussion, he said it was clear that it is critical to get first shots into arms and protect the most vulnerable before boosters are rolled out.
Earlier this month, Tedros recalled a year ago when he cautioned the world against what he called “vaccine nationalism,” in which the wealthiest nations hoarded the bulk of vaccines while poorer nations went with little or none.
And earlier this month, the WHO chief called for a temporary moratorium on boosters to encourage wealthy nations to share more doses of vaccine with nations of the world that have not had a chance to give initial shots to health workers and at-risk communities.
Yet, he said, at this point in the pandemic, 10 nations have administered 75% of all the world’s vaccine supply, while low-income nations have vaccinated barely 2% of their populations.
Tedros said that divide will only grow larger if wealthy national leaders and manufacturers prioritize booster shots over getting supplies to low- and middle-income nations.
He said the best way to fight the delta variant and future, stronger variants is to get more people vaccinated.
“The COVID-19 virus is evolving, and it is not in the best interests of leaders just to focus on narrow nationalistic goals when we live in an interconnected world and the virus is mutating quickly," Tedros said.