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Photo: Afriadi Hikmal/NurPhoto via Getty Images

World Health Organization (WHO) officials said Monday that rich countries with an abundance of coronavirus vaccines should share them with low-income countries instead of using them as boosters.

Why it matters: The plea comes as drugmakers seek authorization for third doses to be used as boosters in wealthier countries like the U.S. The global daily death toll is climbing again after a 10-week decline, primarily due to the more-infectious Delta variant, officials say.

State of play: Israel on Monday became the first country to offer a third dose of Pfizer's vaccine as a booster shot for people with weakened immune systems.

  • Both Pfizer and Moderna have agreed to supply some vaccines to COVAX, the UN-backed initiative to distribute vaccines equitably around the world. But the majority of their doses remains in reserve for rich countries, AP reports.
  • Pfizer is meeting with U.S. officials this week to discuss its authorization request for a booster. Britain is also considering a booster dose for its most vulnerable citizens.

What they're saying: "At this point ... there is no scientific evidence to suggest that boosters are definitely needed," WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at a press conference.

  • WHO would make recommendations on boosters if needed, Swaminathan said, but such guidance "has to be based on the science and data, not on individual companies declaring that the vaccines should now be administered as a booster dose."
    • Worth noting: The FDA and the CDC have also said that fully vaccinated people do not need a booster at this time.
  • "We are making conscious choices right now not to protect those in need," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding that vaccine disparity around the world is driven by "greed."
"Instead of Moderna and Pfizer prioritizing the supply of vaccine as boosters to countries whose populations have relatively high coverage, we need them to go all out to channel supply to COVAX, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, and low- and middle-income countries which have very low vaccine coverage."
— WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The bottom line: WHO's emergencies chief Michael Ryan warned that "we will look back in anger, and, I think, we will look back in shame" if rich countries don't share their vaccine supplies.

Go deeper: The global vaccine failure

Go deeper

Updated 21 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers — New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

GE to mandate COVID vaccinations for U.S. workers

Photo: Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

General Electric will require all of its workers in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19, citing President Biden's executive order for federal contractors, the company confirmed to Axios on Tuesday.

Why it matters: General Electric is the latest in a slew of major companies to mandate the vaccine for workers, following in the footsteps of American Airlines, Tyson Foods and Microsoft, among others.

Oct 19, 2021 - Health

Supreme Court declines to block Maine health care workers vaccine mandate

A Maine health care worker prepares vaccine dose. Photo: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear an emergency appeal of a vaccine mandate for Maine health care workers.

The big picture: The mandate, which was announced in August by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, says that Maine health care workers need to be vaccinated by Oct. 29 or risk losing their jobs and not qualifying for unemployment benefits.