As the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has spurred governments of wealthy nations to step up booster-shot campaigns, the World Health Organization again expressed concern on Thursday that the push could further undermine global vaccine equity.
“Broad-based administration of booster doses risks exacerbating inequities in vaccine access,” Alejandro Cravioto, chairman of the W.H.O.’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, told reporters.
The administration of boosters is now outpacing first shots around the world.
According to Richard Mihigo, coordinator for the W.H.O.’s Immunization and Vaccines Development Program in Africa, “If we looked at the data today, even before Omicron, we are seeing high-income countries administering more booster doses than even vaccines that are being given in developing countries.”
Because most current infections, which are still overwhelmingly being driven by the Delta variant, are affecting unvaccinated people, the W.H.O. said, getting vaccines to those who have no protection should be the priority.
“Remember that we only have 8 percent — 8 percent — of people who have been fully vaccinated in this region,” Mr. Mihigo said of Africa. “This represents around 103 million people in a continent of 1.3 billion.”
Worldwide, about 73 percent of shots that have gone into arms have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. Only 0.8 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries.
The W.H.O.’s <a
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