Dec 29, 2021 - Health

COVAX head: Focusing solely on COVID boosters is a "dangerous mistake"

GAVI Alliance CEO Dr. Seth Berkley

Gavi alliance CEO Dr. Seth Berkley in 2016. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

Seth Berkley, CEO of the Gavi vaccine alliance and head of the global COVAX initiative, wrote in Buzzfeed on Wednesday that focusing on COVID-19 booster shots alone to combat the recent wave of cases is a "dangerous mistake."

Driving the news: Berkley's op-ed comes at a time when the Omicron variant is spreading extremely quickly — even among vaccinated people — and represents a majority of COVID-19 cases right now — 58.6%, according to the CDC.

The big picture: Berkley said that even in the Omicron era, global vaccinations are still the most effective way to protect people, though not everyone around the world has access to them.

  • Berkley urged officials around the world that the priority for 2022 should be getting primary COVID-19 doses to everyone, not just boosters to those who are vaccinated.

What he's saying: "If the priority with each new variant of concern is to race toward reopening society by offering boosters instead of tackling the root cause — namely, the fact that nearly 3.5 billion people still have not been vaccinated — then we could face an endless cycle of resurgences and leave the door open for more dangerous variants," Berkley said.

  • "The danger now with Omicron is that if governments once again turn their attention inward and focus all attention toward making boosters available to their citizens, it could again start to hinder equitable access and further prolong the global crisis," he added.
  • "If we end up in a situation where we face Pi, Rho, Sigma, or Tao variants, and fourth, fifth, or sixth booster shots are being offered to some people while billions of others are still waiting on their first, then we really shouldn’t wonder why we are still in a state of global crisis," Berkley said.

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