US rejects call by WHO to stop giving COVID booster shots

 Israel, Russia and Hungary have already started providing third booster doses to wide swaths of their populations, while Germany and France have announced they will do so starting September 1

White House press secretary says it is a ‘false choice’ to demand wealthy nations halt third doses in order to supply poor countries

The United States on Wednesday rejected an appeal from the UN health agency for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots and for rich countries to focus instead on supplying poorer nations.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had urged the countries and companies controlling the supply of doses to change course immediately and prioritize addressing the drastic inequity in vaccine distribution between rich and poor nations.

“We definitely feel that it’s a false choice and we can do both,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, adding that the United States has donated more than any other country and was asking others to step up. “Also in this country [we] have enough supply to ensure that every American has access to a vaccine,” she added.

“We will have enough supply to ensure if the FDA decides that boosters are recommended for a portion of the population to provide those as well. We believe we can do both and we don’t need to make that choice,” Psaki added.

The WHO has for months been sounding the alarm over a glaring and growing imbalance in vaccine availability against a disease that has killed 4.2 million people worldwide.

Some 4.3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally, according to an AFP count.

People receive the AstraZeneca vaccination against the coronavirus at the forum of the DITIB central mosque in Cologne, Germany, on May 8, 2021. (Martin Meissner/AP)

The WHO wants every country to have vaccinated at least 10 percent of its population by the end of September, at least 40% by the end of the year, and 70% by the middle of 2022.

In countries categorized as high income by the World Bank, 101 doses per 100 people have been injected. That figure drops to 1.7 doses per 100 people in the 29 lowest-income countries.

Israel, Russia and Hungary have already started providing third booster doses to wide swaths of their populations, while Germany and France have announced they will do so starting September 1. Other nations, including the United States and Britain, are considering plans to do so in the wake of the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Israel began administering COVID vaccine booster doses to the immunosuppressed last month, and rolled them out to all Israelis over age 60 on Sunday.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has urged the elderly population to make appointments to receive a third dose in order to better protect themselves.

“The booster, the third vaccine, simply ‘reloads’ the body’s defenses and allows us to save lives,” Bennett said on Tuesday as he accompanied his mother, Myrna, to receive her third dose. “I ask everyone — children, grandchildren and parents: Go and get vaccinated. Vaccinate a third time whoever is over age 60… The more we vaccinate, the more we protect our mothers and fathers and also safeguard an open Israel.”

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