(Geneva) —An expert group convened by the World Health Organization said Tuesday it “strongly supports urgent and broad access” to booster doses, in a reversal of the U.N. agency’s previous insistence that boosters weren’t necessary and contributed to vaccine inequity.
WHO stated that it had received a report from its expert panel stating that vaccines authorized by COVID-19 provide protection against severe diseases and deaths in light of Omicron’s global spread.
It was stated that people who are at highest risk for severe diseases should be vaccinated, and boosters may also be used.
Last year, WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a moratorium on booster doses while dozens of countries embarked on administering the doses, saying rich countries should immediately donate those vaccines to poor countries instead. WHO scientists indicated that at that point they were continuing to analyze incoming data.
Numerous studies in science have shown that authorized vaccine booster doses protect against COVID-19 and restore weak immunity. Omicron infection surges were prevented by booster programs in wealthy countries like the U.S., Canada, and Britain.
WHO said it is continuing to monitor the global spread of Omicron, including a “stealth” version known as BA.2, which has been documented to have re-infected some people after an initial case of Omicron. There’s mixed research on whether it causes more severe disease, but vaccines appear just as effective against it.
WHO pointed out that all current COVID-19 approved vaccines were based on the same strain found in Wuhan (China) more than three decades ago.
“Since then, there has been continuous and substantial virus evolution and it is likely that this evolution will continue, resulting in the emergence of new variants,” the agency said. It stated that vaccines against coronavirus would need to be improved.