Are Boosters Delaying Global Progress?
Some have called on wealthy nations to forgo booster shots until the rest of the world is at least partially vaccinated. In early September, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said the easiest path to hitting the 40% target would be to heed his call for a moratorium on boosters through the end of 2021.
COVAX said in early September that it would receive 25% fewer vaccine doses in 2021 than it had been expecting. Restrictions on exports — particularly from the Serum Institute of India, a key supplier — scale-up challenges at manufacturing sites for the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, and uncertain timing of approval [AGS1] of several vaccines, including one from Novavax, are all cutting into supplies.
While 105 COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of testing, just eight have been fully approved and 13 have some type of early or limited use worldwide, according to the New York Times vaccine tracker.
The Independent Allocation Vaccine Group (IAVG), established by the WHO, said it is concerned about “the prioritization of bilateral deals over international collaboration and solidarity, export restrictions and decisions by some countries to administer booster doses to their adult populations.”
Many nations have authorized or begun offering boosters, including the U.S., and, according to Reuters, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Russia, Poland, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Turkey, and Uruguay.
“Wealthy countries must let go of reserved doses and cede their place in the queue, allowing COVAX and the African Union to buy the vaccines the continent seeks and stands ready to finance,” Matshidiso Moeti, MD, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, wrote in a New York Times editorial. Moeti said that only 51 million Africans (3.6% of the continent’s population) are fully vaccinated.
If the world wants to show it is serious, it will send another 150 million or more doses to Africa in the next 2-4 weeks, said Udayakumar, noting that the continent has a goal of vaccinating 10% of its population by the end of September.