WHO warns of Covid vaccine hoarding as nations begin booster doses to fight Omicron

“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 vaccines to protect — in a sense, in excess — their opportunity for vaccination,” said WHO’s Kate O’Brien.
The warning from WHO came even as the doses supplied to the global vaccine sharing programme COVAX had increased in the past few months. In picture - Health worker prepares a dose of Moderna Covid-19 booster shot.(AFP | Representational Image)
The warning from WHO came even as the doses supplied to the global vaccine sharing programme COVAX had increased in the past few months. In picture - Health worker prepares a dose of Moderna Covid-19 booster shot.(AFP | Representational Image)
Published on Dec 09, 2021 08:53 PM IST
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Written by Srivatsan K C | Edited by Sohini Goswami, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The World Health Organisation on Thursday expressed concerns over the hoarding of Covid-19 vaccines by developed economies amid the threat of Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) as many countries take a decision in favour of booster doses for their citizens. The global health body said the administration of booster doses might affect the supply to low-income countries.

Initially several countries introduced a booster inoculation programme for older populations and those with underlying health issues. However, the emergence of the new variant has prompted some countries to expand the programme to all eligible beneficiaries.

“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 vaccines to protect — in a sense, in excess — their opportunity for vaccination, and a sort of ‘no-regrets’ kind of approach,” the Associated Press quoted WHO’s director of the department of immunisation, vaccines and biologicals Kate O’Brien as saying.

Also read | EU agency says Omicron cases so far appear 'mostly mild'. Then cautions

“What is going to shut down disease is for everybody who is especially at risk of disease to become vaccinated. We seem to be taking our eye off that ball in countries,” she further said.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergencies director, briefed on the Omicron variant and said, “We don't fully understand the implications clinically or the implications for our vaccines... What we do in the coming days and weeks, both in terms of virus suppression, vaccination and equity will make a huge difference to the evolution of this pandemic in 2022.”

The warning from WHO came even as the doses supplied to the global vaccine sharing programme COVAX had increased in the past few months due to the donations from wealthy nations and also due to the easing of export limits on vaccines by India, according to a report by Reuters.

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Union’s (EU) drug regulator, said Omicron cases so far appear to be “mostly mild” while cautioning that more evidence was needed to ascertain the severity of disease caused by the variant.

As many as 57 countries have so far reported cases pertaining to the new variant, according to the WHO.

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