WHO warns of Covid vaccine hoarding as nations begin booster doses to fight Omicron
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.
“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.
Days after the Taliban's latest order, women presenters on Afghanistan's top news channels went on air on Sunday with their faces covered. On Saturday, many of the news anchors had reportedly defied the diktat to conceal their appearance on TV but their employers had come under pressure. The Taliban's latest order was among the slew of restrictions, mostly targeting the rights of women and girls, they imposed since seizing powers of Afghanistan last year.
Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese, who will be sworn in as Australia's 31st prime minister on Monday, after his party won Saturday's federal elections, will, soon after Albanese's swearing-in, leave for Tokyo, Japan, to attend a summit of the Quad group of nations. However, Albanese will not be the only Labor leader to take oath of allegiance on the day; four other party MPs will also be sworn-in.
President Joe Biden said Sunday that recent cases of monkeypox that have been identified in Europe and the United States were something “to be concerned about.” In his first public comments on the disease, Biden added: “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential." “They haven't told me the level of exposure yet but it is something that everybody should be concerned about,” Biden said.
The war between Russia and Ukraine is now heading to the fourth month, with no signs of peace. The ferocious fighting which began on February 24 has killed thousands of civilians, flattened cities and forced more than six million Ukrainians to flee the country. Having already abandoned its move to capture capital Kyiv, Russia is now all out to capture the eastern and southern parts of the war-torn country.
Shanghai reopened a small part of the world's longest subway system on Sunday after some lines had been closed for almost two months, as the city paves the way for a more complete lifting of its painful COVID-19 lockdown next week. Inside the carriages, passengers were seen keeping some empty seats between themselves. Four of the 20 lines reopened, and 273 bus routes. Most restrictions on movement will remain in place this month.