© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A health worker prepares a dose of Pfizer BioNTech’s “Comirnaty” vaccine for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination center in Paris, France on July 23, 2021. REUTERS / Sarah Meyssonnier / File Photo
By Sudip Kar-Gupta and Caroline Copley
PARIS / BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany, France and Israel will continue their plans to administer COVID-19 vaccine boosters, ignoring an appeal from the World Health Organization to postpone vaccination until more people around the world are vaccinated.
However, the decision to push booster vaccinations despite the WHO’s strongest statement underscores the huge inequalities in responding to the pandemic as richer nations ramp up programs to protect citizens from the more contagious Delta variant.
French President Emmanuel Macron said France was working to introduce third doses for the elderly and vulnerable from September.
Germany wants to give boosters to immunocompromised patients, the elderly and nursing home residents from September, the Ministry of Health announced.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued a statement calling on senior citizens to get a third syringe after the government launched a booster dose campaign last month.
“Those over 60 who haven’t received the third dose of vaccine are six times more likely to develop serious illness and – God forbid – death,” said Bennett.
In an online discussion with the public and journalists, Bennett said Israel’s efforts to give people over 60 a third dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine would provide the world with vital information on how to combat the Delta variant.
Israel, with a population of 9.3 million, is a small country whose vaccine use “doesn’t really affect world supplies,” he added.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday called for booster vaccinations to be stopped until at least the end of September and said it was unacceptable for rich countries to use more of the global vaccine supply.
High-income countries administered about 50 doses per 100 people in May, and that number has doubled since then, according to the WHO. Low-income countries were only able to administer 1.5 doses per 100 people due to a lack of supplies.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot accept that countries that have already used most of the world’s vaccine supply use more of it, ”said Tedros.
Germany denied these allegations, saying it will also donate at least 30 million doses of vaccine to poorer countries.
“We want to provide the endangered groups in Germany with a precautionary third vaccination and at the same time support the vaccination of as many people as possible worldwide,” said the Ministry of Health.
Following Tedros’ comments, the White House said Wednesday it was ready to provide booster syringes if needed, suggesting it would also not heed the WHO’s call.
Pfizer (NYSE 🙂 has said that boosters are most likely needed due to decreased antibody responses, especially after six months.
The U.S. health regulators have said that more scientific evidence is needed to ensure certain boosters are needed, but have indicated that they believe that people with compromised immune systems might need a third shot.
Macron’s government seeks to step up France’s vaccination program as the country faces a fourth wave of the virus and street demonstrations in protest against the government’s COVID policies.
France and Germany have so far 64.5% and