The World Health Organization warns that unequal access to COVID-19 boosters could be contributing to the pandemic's interminable nature. Existing distribution programs have tended to overlook poorer countries in initial dose allocation. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus 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.”
The WHO's admonishment arrives as U.S. health officials ramp up advocating vaccine booster shots for all citizens over age 16 in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Israel is already offering a fourth vaccine dose to those older than 60.
Other global health experts are in agreement that Omicron's dominance is intertwined with vaccine inequality. The variant reportedly emerged from an HIV patient in South Africa, where no more than 26% of people are fully vaccinated. Due to "distortions in global supply," the WHO estimates that half of its member states were only able to vaccinate a mere 40% of their populations by the end of 2021. Moreover, Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO's health emergencies program, said this inequality is “the most horrific injustice of 2021.”