WHO chief: Blanket booster drives risk prolonging pandemic

The head of the World Health Organization is warning that blanket booster programs in rich countries risk prolonging the world’s battle with COVID-19

BERLIN — The head of the World Health Organization warned Wednesday that blanket booster programs in rich countries risk prolonging the world’s battle with COVID-19 and said that “no country can boost its way out of the pandemic.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the priority must be to reduce deaths and help all countries meet minimum vaccination targets that many still haven’t reached. And he noted that “the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths are in unvaccinated people, not unboosted people.”

“Blanket booster programs are likely to prolong the pandemic rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate,” Tedros added.

Tedros renewed a call for manufacturers and other countries to prioritize the COVAX program to get doses to needier nations and “work together to support those who are furthest behind.”

“Unless we vaccinate the whole world … I don’t think we can end this pandemic,” Tedros said. But he added that authorities now know the virus better and have effective tools to fight it; “we need to add to that comprehensive implementation and equity, and hope 2022 will end this pandemic.”

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