The World Health Organization said Wednesday that the data available for justifying the need for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots were inconclusive.
Earlier this month, WHO officials called for a moratorium on administering COVID-19 booster shots until more was done to address vaccine inequities around the world between wealthy and poor nations.
At the agency’s regular news briefing at its headquarters in Geneva, WHO officials were asked about the moratorium. WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said the organization based its policies on the available science and the consensus from a recent meeting of researchers and regulatory experts who determined the results of research on the need for COVID-19 vaccine boosters were "not conclusive."
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed with that assessment and said there also was the moral issue of wealthy nations administering boosters while other nations have not delivered a single shot to their high-priority populations.
Tedros compared it to offering a man floating in a life jacket another life jacket while others around him are drowning. He said booster shots would do very little to help the world recover from the pandemic.
WHO officials have argued that getting at least one shot in the arms of at least 10% of the population of all the world’s countries will go further to stop the development and spread of COVID-19 variants.
WHO officials also responded to statements made this week by Chinese government officials who ridiculed theories that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, and suggested it came from a lab at a U.S. Army base in the state of Maryland.
Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of health emergencies, said all theories about the origins of COVID-19 were “on the table,” but he noted there was a contradiction in Beijing's saying the hypothesis that the virus came from a Chinese lab “is a non-starter,” while insisting labs in other countries should be investigated.
Ryan said he found that thinking difficult to understand but would be willing to listen to his Chinese counterparts explain what they meant by that statement.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.