The delta variant of Covid-19 is wreaking havoc around the world and wealthy countries are deploying booster shots as a defense. With remarkable speed, the United States has pushed forward a plan to offer a third vaccination jab as an attempt to curb the spread within its borders. This response is hardly surprising, but given how many countries are still struggling to get a single dose of vaccine to a significant segment of their populations, the move ignores the long-term threat from vast global disparities in immunity. Plus, the emergence of yet another variant, C.1.2, further calls into question the prudence of booster shots.
The best strategy for eradicating the delta variant — and the other variants waiting in the wings — isn’t booster shots in rich countries, but a worldwide vaccination program that gets as many people as possible fully jabbed. Such a program should focus on local manufacturing of vaccines to ensure poorer countries are empowered by the ability to produce the jabs.
Dr Mike Ryan, director of the World Health Organization’s health emergency program, recently compared booster shots to handing out life jackets to people already wearing them. WHO has been unusually vocal in its opposition to third jabs by calling for a moratorium until the vaccine gap between rich and poor countries closes. The vaccine doses lined up as boosters should be sent to countries where many have not even had a single jab. This is even more urgent considering most booster recipients already have enough protection to avoid hospitalization and death.
American officials say booster shots won’t interfere with vaccination drives worldwide. Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said the U.S. donates twice as many vaccine doses as it uses. But he fails to answer why it could not donate more by not promoting booster shots.
Now that the US Food and Drug Administration has fully authorized the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, the ratio Zients mentions is bound to change.
The authorization prompted several large institutions, from the US army to the government of New York state, to pass vaccine mandates for their staff. Coupled with the push for booster shots, the US is about to embark on another massive vaccination drive that will last well…