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Call For Booster Shots Reignites Criticism about Global Vaccine Inequity

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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, the Ridgewood blog reported on August 17th that the CDC now says people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are more at risk of serious, prolonged illness. Studies indicate some immunocompromised people don’t always build the same level of immunity after vaccination the way non-immunocompromised people do.

In a joint statement from HHS Public Health and Medical Experts on COVID-19 Booster Shots,

“We have developed a plan to begin offering these booster shots this fall subject to FDA conducting an independent evaluation and determination of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issuing booster dose recommendations based on a thorough review of the evidence. We are prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose. At that time, the individuals who were fully vaccinated earliest in the vaccination rollout, including many health care providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors, will likely be eligible for a booster. We would also begin efforts to deliver booster shots directly to residents of long-term care facilities at that time, given the distribution of vaccines to this population early in the vaccine rollout and the continued increased risk that COVID-19 poses to them.

“We also anticipate booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. Administration of the J&J vaccine did not begin in the U.S. until March 2021, and we expect more data on J&J in the next few weeks. With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well.

The announcement reignited criticism about global vaccine inequity, with some experts expressing fear, frustration, and even anger over wealthier nations’ continuing disregard for a WHO call for a moratorium on booster doses. WHO officials and other experts continue to argue that booster programs—also implemented in Israel, France, Germany, and other nations—will further deplete scarce vaccine resources and deprive low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) of needed doses. The WHO estimates 11 billion vaccine doses are needed to help control the pandemic. WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti chastised wealthier nations, saying “they make a mockery of vaccine equity” by stockpiling vaccine doses while the situation in Africa remains “very fragile.” WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan and other researchers warned that a focus on booster programs in wealthy nations could lead to the development of more viral variants and “an even more dire situation” globally, because the virus continues to spread unabated in unvaccinated—not vaccinated—populations. Other experts said there was still not enough conclusive evidence supporting third doses to recommend them to everyone.
But US officials pushed back at the disapproval. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the notion the US would not be able to provide boosters and simultaneously donate doses to countries in need represented a “false choice.” US CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky agreed, saying, “We’re going to do both and we have been doing both,” noting the country plans to distribute 200 million doses worldwide and administer 100 million booster doses by the end of the year. Global health advocates continue to call on the US to be more of a leader in efforts to bolster global vaccine supplies, including by pressuring pharmaceutical companies to share technologies with LMICs and help scale up manufacturing in those countries.
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