After a sharp increase in Covid cases in the United States and amid fears of an increase in the Delta variant, Pfizer said on Monday it was seeking federal authorization for the third doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to be administered in the form of reminders.
However, World Health Organization officials insisted there wasn’t enough evidence to show third doses are needed, and said Pfizer should focus on improvement instead. access to vaccines worldwide.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the grotesque vaccine disparities were due to “greed”.
“We are making conscious choices right now not to protect those in need,” he said, adding that people who have not yet received a single dose should be given priority and calling on Pfizer and Moderna to “Do their utmost to provide Covax, the Working Group on Vaccine Procurement and Low and Middle Income Countries”.
Tedros warned that the number of patients dying from Covid was starting to climb and that the extremely infectious Delta variant was “causing waves of catastrophic cases”.
In the United States, confirmed cases rose 47% to 136,351 during the week to Sunday, the largest weekly increase since April 2020, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The death toll was 1,629.
WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said: “At this point… there is no scientific evidence to suggest that boosters are definitely needed. “
Swaminathan said the WHO would make recommendations on the boosters “based on science and data, not on individual companies saying vaccines should now be given as a booster dose.”
WHO emergency chief Dr Michael Ryan suggested that if rich countries decide to give booster shots rather than giving them to the developing world, “we will look back angrily and I think we look back with shame ”.
While vaccine manufacturers have agreed to supply limited quantities to the Covax initiative managed in part by the WHO, global access remains very imbalanced, with wealthy Western countries taking the vast majority of injections even as the rates of turnout drop and the Delta variant spreads.
More than 3.41 billion doses have been administered in 180 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg, including 334 million doses administered in the United States.
Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to Joe Biden, said on Sunday he was not ruling out the possibility of recommending a third shot. Fauci also lamented what he described as “ideological rigidity” preventing people from being shot.
“It’s almost inexplicable why people, when they see the data in front of them, don’t get vaccinated,” Fauci told CBS.
Nearly 50% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, but in some areas, such as parts of rural Mississippi, barely a quarter of the population has received even a single injection. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson admitted on Sunday that vaccine resistance in southern and rural states was based on their “more conservative approach, their skepticism of government.”
In the United States, the New York Times reported on Monday that the Federal Food and Drug Administration will add a warning to shipments of the Johnson & Johnson single-injection vaccine, saying it may lead to a low but increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a very rare neurological condition.