Amid Omicron threat, WHO warns rich countries from hoarding Covid jabstext_fields
Geneva: Amid mixed reports on the true impact of Omicron, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday said it remained unclear whether additional Covid-19 vaccine doses are needed to protect against the super mutated variant.
It also warned wealthy countries against hoarding Covid-19 vaccines for booster shots, threatening supplies to poorer countries where inoculation rates are low.
The comments by WHO on Thursday come as supplies to an international dose-sharing programme run by the WHO and vaccine charity GAVI have increased in the past few months due to donations from wealthy countries and after India eased limits on exports of vaccines.
The UN health agency's vaccine advisors warned that a rush to stockpile more jabs, especially without clear evidence they are needed, would only exacerbate the already glaringly inequal vaccine access around the globe.
"As we head into whatever the Omicron situation is going to be, there is a risk that the global supply is again going to revert to high-income countries hoarding vaccine to protect (their populations)... in a sense in excess,"
The preliminary results published on Wednesday had indicated that three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine were needed to obtain the same level of protection against Omicron as two doses provided against the initial strain.
O'Brien said the WHO was examining the data, and that it may turn out that "additional doses have benefit to provide added protection against Omicron", but stressed it was still "very early days".
O'Brien pointed out that the world had only just begun addressing the dangerous inequity in vaccine access in the past two months, with more donated doses and large shipments going to underserved countries.
"We have to make sure that it continues," she said, warning that efforts by wealthy countries to stockpile more jabs for their people would only prolong the pandemic.
"It's not going to work from an epidemiologic perspective, and it's not going to work from a transmission perspective, unless we actually have vaccine going to all countries," she said.