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White House rebuffs WHO's calls for a moratorium on vaccine booster shots

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Posted at 10:05 AM, Aug 04, 2021

On Wednesday, the White House dismissed calls by the World Health Organization to put a pause on administering vaccine booster shots to boost global supply.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said such a moratorium would be a "false choice" and that the U.S. could continue to administer booster shots while donating to the global supply.

Her comments came hours after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for the moratorium at a press conference on Wednesday during a press conference in Geneva.

"WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September, to enable at least 10% of the population of every country to be vaccinated," Ghebreyesus said.

Earlier this year, Ghebreyesus set a goal for the WHO to have at least 10% of the population in each country vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September, a program he called "sprint to September." He said Wednesday that at the current pace, the WHO will miss that target.

"I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the delta variant. But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it, while the world's most vulnerable people remain unprotected," Ghebreyesus said.

Ghebreyesus has made vaccine distribution equity a focus of the WHO throughout the pandemic. In May, he called the disparity of vaccine distributions in rich and developing countries "grotesque."

While vaccine distribution between wealthy and developing countries remains stark, the U.S. and the Biden administration have been among the world leaders in vaccine distribution. The U.S. has delivered more than 100 million doses of vaccine to developing countries in recent months and has committed to donating 500 million doses over the next year.

It's currently unclear how much protection is offered by one dose of a two-dose vaccine. While some studies have shown that just a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine could offer ample protection against COVID-19, health experts mostly agree that two doses provide more protection.

Some countries, like Canada and the U.K., delayed the delivery of booster shots, choosing instead to vaccinate more people in a shorter timeframe. However, health experts in the U.S. have pushed back on such a recommendation, arguing instead that they should follow procedures that were carried out in vaccine trials.