Promoting spirit of COVID-19 vaccine sharing

The dangerous spread of the Delta variant has caused many rich countries to boost their plans to offer a third COVID-19 vaccine shot.

A medical worker injecting Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine to people in Central Falls, Rhode Island, the US.
A medical worker injecting Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine to people in Central Falls, Rhode Island, the US.

However, the stockpiling of vaccines to serve their plans can cause the inherently scarce supply for poor countries to become increasingly limited while the spirit of sharing has always been upheld in the global anti-pandemic efforts.

According to announcements from countries, to date, at least 20 countries have implemented and approved the plans or issued recommendations on booster shots for those who have been fully vaccinated with two doses. Israel currently leads the campaign with over 70% of people age 60 and over and 44% of those between 50-59 having received a third jab.

The US plans to administer COVID-19 booster shots to Americans who completed their initial vaccination at least eight months ago. Over 100 million people in the US are expected to be eligible for immunisation by the end of this year. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), three European countries decided on their start days while many others have officially recommended COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.

The countries have been aggressively providing COVID-19 vaccine booster shots amid the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant that is difficult to control. Israel’s decision came as the number of vaccinated people being hospitalised has been tending to increase. US health officials proposed that the government begin offering third COVID-19 vaccine shots as soon as possible, stating that the effectiveness of the injected vaccines is gradually decreasing.

However, WHO said that the effectiveness of booster vaccine doses has not been confirmed and they are only necessary for certain people with weakened immune systems. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not yet approved the booster shot due to insufficient data to conduct a scientific evaluation. The European Commission warned that EU countries that decide to administer third vaccine shots will face legal risks.

According to the head of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine maker, countries rushed to get third booster doses due to pressure to reduce risks; however, this is not necessary if there is no clear evidence of their effectiveness. The director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) also warned that the immunisation of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots instead of sharing redundant vaccines is a miscalculation because this can create an “opportunity” for other variants appeared and spread more complicatedly.

A third injection for a person means denying a vaccination opportunity for another. In addition, the effectiveness of a third vaccine shot has not been clearly confirmed. The benefits of third booster vaccine shots are much smaller than the support for poor countries that have not yet accessed vaccine supplies.

Translated by NDO