The CDC and other public health bodies have recommended that adults receive a booster shot to protect themselves and others against the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
However, in a press conference earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that these campaigns are unlikely to end the pandemic, and could even prolong it.
They also said that booster shots shouldn’t be used as an excuse to ignore other guidelines like masks, social distancing, and limiting social contact – or to go ahead with festivities as normal.
In the press briefing, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general said, “Blanket booster programs are likely to prolong the pandemic rather than ending it by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate.
No country can boost its way out of the pandemic. Boosters cannot be seen as a ticket to go ahead with the planned celebrations without the need for other precautions.”
According to the WHO, wealthier countries have achieved a vaccination rate of around 70%, and most are now rushing to offer citizens booster shots for the holiday season.
However, only half of WHO members have been able to vaccinate 40% of their populations, and many lower-income countries have been unable to vaccinate health workers and at-risk groups.
It’s currently estimated that just 25% of health workers in African countries are vaccinated at all.
The organization also warned that low vaccination rates in these countries could undermine efforts to fight the virus, and is also putting many vulnerable people at risk.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added that there should be enough vaccines to offer the global population two doses by early 2022, and boosters by the end of the year. He also urged countries to focus on supporting other countries to boost global immunity levels.
“As we approach a new year, we must all learn the painful lessons this year taught us. 2022 must be the end of the COVID-19 pandemic but it must also be the beginning of something else, a new era of solidarity. We must leave 2021 behind with sorrow and look forward to 2022 with hope,” Dr. Tedros added.