The director of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Wednesday that “blanket” vaccine booster shot programs could “prolong” the pandemic, as the United States urged citizens to get their third shots and Israel introduced a fourth dose.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said booster shot programs could extend the pandemic by “diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage,” allowing the coronavirus to spread and possibly mutate in countries where few citizens are vaccinated, according to CNBC.
Tedros said only half of the 194 countries who are members of WHO were able to vaccinate at least 40% of their citizens this year “because of distortions in global supply.”
Tuesday, President Biden urged already-vaccinated citizens to get boosted to protect themselves from the omicron variant causing a surge of infections throughout the country.
Israel became the first country to approve a fourth dose for healthcare workers and elderly people Tuesday.
“No country can boost its way out of the pandemic,” Tedros said.
The omicron variant was first identified in Botswana and South Africa, and now makes up more than 73% of cases in the U.S. Last month, as omicron was designated a “variant of concern” by the WHO, Tedros said that “no country can vaccinate it’s way out of the pandemic alone” and that vaccine inequality allows “more opportunity this virus has to spread and evolve in ways we cannot predict.”
Over 497 million. That’s how many vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 72% of the country has received at least one dose. In South Africa, which has a population of roughly 59 million—329 million less than the U.S.—over 27 million doses have been administered, according to the WHO.
A wave of omicron infections hit South Africa over the last month, though the surge seems to be waning. “We’re going down… and that is the way we think it may work with a variant like omicron,” South Africa’s top infectious-disease scientist Salim Abdool Karim said Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.