The latest WHO intervention comes after a large number of countries have started or are considering introducing additional measures. Israel began providing third shots last month, and France, Germany and the UAE announced plans to launch an additional program. Others, like the UK and the US, are still considering it. The U.S. bought additional doses of Pfizer vaccine in preparation, but made no decision on whether to start introducing them.
The science of whether amplifiers are needed is still uncertain. “The evidence is evolving, moving,” Kate O’Brien, WHO’s director of immunization, told reporters at the conference. “We don’t have all the evidence as to whether it’s necessary or not.”
Pfizer released data last month which suggested that the third shot provided strong additional protection against the delta variant. But existing vaccine regimens have been shown to provide good protection against all major variants of concern.
However, the WHO wants to shift attention to vaccinating much of the world before countries consider any surcharges. The agency aims to vaccinate 40% of the world by the end of the year, and 70% by mid-2022.
“We need an urgent turnaround, from most vaccines going to high-income countries to most to low-income countries,” said Tedros, who urged vaccine manufacturers to focus on donating to Covax, a scheme set up to vaccines distributed to poorer countries. Last week, he said the scheme needed a large injection of funds to achieve its goals.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the WHO intervention a “fake choice.” he told the AP that the United States will have enough vaccines to donate to poorer countries, and that it will be able to introduce amplifiers if necessary.