The World Health Organization (WHO) has called upon countries to delay rollout of booster shots as several countries across the world battle shortages of COVID-19 vaccines. The global health agency said that nations should wait at least till the end of the year before rolling out booster doses.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.” The WHO chief was speaking from the health agency’s Geneva headquarters.

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Speaking to the media, Ghebreyesus urged wealthy countries and vaccine manufacturers to prioritise getting COVID-19 vaccines to health workers and vulnerable populations in poorer countries over boosters. “We do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated,” he said.

WHO says that while an additional dose could be necessary for people who have compromised immune systems, but the health agency has stressed that for healthy people, the existing vaccines seem very effective, especially in preventing severe disease.

“There is no compelling case to move forward with a generalised recommendation for booster shots,” said WHO’s vaccine chief Kate O’Brien.

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Last month, the WHO called for a moratorium on COVID-19 booster shots until September in a bid to address vaccine inequalities. Meanwhile, several countries have either began rolling out booster shots or are planning to.

The WHO chief acknowledged that vaccine distribution among nations has not improved since the health agency’s moratorium call and said, “So today I am calling for an extension of the moratorium at least until the end of the year”.

The World Health Organization has set a global target to ensure every country vaccinates at least 10% of its population by the end of September and at least 40% by the end of the year.