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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

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Sep 17, 2021 - Health

Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A key FDA advisory committee is meeting today to discuss Pfizer's proposal for a COVID vaccine booster — but it will set the stage for the entire booster debate.

The big question: Not only whether experts believe there’s enough evidence to support boosters, but also whether they believe additional shots should be made available for everyone or limited to older Americans and the immunocompromised.

Sep 17, 2021 - Health

CDC: Moderna vaccine most effective against hospitalization in U.S.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Overall healthy adults with the Moderna COVID vaccine had 93% vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization over five months compared to those with 88% protection with Pfizer and 71% from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a new report out Friday from the CDC shows.

Why it matters: The report comes as the Food and Drug Administrations meets Friday to consider whether to endorse a contentious plan for booster shots among the fully vaccinated.

Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question — Los Angeles County to require vaccination proof at indoor bars — France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay.
  2. Health: Worsening crisis at Rikers Island jail spurs call for action — 1 in 500 Americans has died — Cases are falling, but deaths are rising.
  3. Politics: White House invites call with Nicki Minaj to discuss vaccine — Gottlieb says CDC hampered U.S. response — 26 states have limited state or local officials' public health powers.
  4. Education: Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap — Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools — Massachusetts activates National Guard to help with school transportation.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.