THE World Health Organization (WHO) has made a major U-turn on its vaccine recommendations, as experts suggest booster shots should be rolled out to distinct groups at risk from the virus.
A team of WHO scientists have reportedly recommended a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine. The U-turn comes after months of top WHO officials calling on nations not to stockpile their vaccine supplies for booster programmes. The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization group met last week to discuss additional vaccines to people in two categories.
The first group includes people who are immunocompromised, whose natural defences against pathogens are weakened, “no matter which vaccine they received”.
According to molecular biologist and science journalist Kai Kupferschmidt, the second group includes people above the age of 60 who have received the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccine.
The call for booster shots is supposedly based on Covid data collected in Latin America, where two vaccines have been extensively used.
Mr Kupferschmidt tweeted: “In both cases @WHO considers the additional dose to be part of the primary immunization series, so separate from the discussion about booster shots to shore up waning immunity.”
Last month, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the world’s wealthiest nations to reconsider rolling out booster shots.
He said was “appalled” to hear pharmaceutical companies has enough vaccine doses to offer booster shots while many developing nations were suffering vaccine shortages.
The WHO chief told a news conference: “I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.
“Because manufacturers have prioritized or been legally obliged to fulfil bilateral deals with rich countries willing to pay top dollar, low-income countries have been deprived of the tools to protect their people.”
The SAGE meeting, which was held October 4 to 7, determined booster shots of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines “should be offered to persons aged 60 and above as part of an extended primary series”.
In addition, the group determined countries where the two jabs are being offered should first aim to maximise their two-dose vaccine coverage before rolling out booster shots, “starting in the oldest age groups”.
According to a WHO document listing the meeting’s highlights, the health branch of the United Nations will also recommend booster shots to immunocompromised people.
The SAGE group. “Brinkwire Summary News”.