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WHO says evidence on widespread need for booster doses still limited

…recommends for populations in greatest need

Evidence on the need for a widespread administration booster doses, following primary vaccination rounds remains limited and inconclusive, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

It said introducing booster should be strictly guided by evidence on waning vaccine effectiveness, in particular a decline in protection against severe disease in the general population and in high-risk populations.

In an Interim statement on booster doses for COVID-19 vaccination with support of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization, the group recommends that booster doses be targeted at only groups with the greatest need.

It raised concerns that with lingering constraints on global vaccine supply, broad-based administration of booster doses risks worsening existing inequities in vaccine access.
It is capable of driving up demand and diverting supply, while priority populations in some countries, or in subnational settings, have not yet received a primary vaccination series.

“The focus remains on urgently increasing global vaccination coverage with the primary series driven by the objective to protect against severe disease,” the statement read.
There has been a growing push to administer booster doses in vaccine manufacturers bid to address waning immunity after full COVID-19 vaccination.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have sought approval for use in the US while AstraZeneca is considering developing a variant vaccine against emerging strains.

Read Also: ‘AstraZeneca Vaccines in Nigeria are equivalent to any others in the world’

The US Centre for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, for instance, has prescribed booster doses for adults aged 18 and older who have underlying health conditions and who were vaccinated at least six months ago.

The CDC’s best estimate is that around 11 million Americans fall into that category.

But the panel rejected the Food and Drug Association’s suggestion that people who live or work in high-risk settings but have no other underlying health concerns should get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.

The FDA wanted teachers and health care workers to be eligible for boosters, but the CDC said the recommendation was too broad.
According to WHO, The degree of waning of immunity and need for booster doses of vaccine may differ between vaccine products, target populations, circulating COVID-19 virus, and intensity of exposure.

For some vaccines, restricted booster indications have been included into the product label of some jurisdictions.
Vaccination coverage remains very low with only 3.6 percent of Africa’s population fully vaccinated amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant across 32 African countries have reported the delta variant

COVAX, the global facility for vaccine distribution last week cut its supply by 25 percent due to the lingering export ban in India and hoarding in other producing regions, bashing the vaccination goals of countries including Nigeria.

With COVAX and the African Union locked out of the market, the scheme will miss its 40 percent global target for 2021. The 470 million doses expected by December will only be enough to vaccinate just 17 percent of all Africans.

Africa still needs 500 million more doses to reach the year-end goal, even if all shipments through COVAX and the African Union arrived, Moeti said.

At this rate the continent may only reach the 40 percent target by the end of March 2022, she said.

Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, co-chair of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance (AVDA) who also spoke during the briefing said the global pandemic has served as a reminder of the underlying inequities, spotlighting the power and balances between countries that have access to vaccines, that are able to bounce back from Covid-19 and even provide booster doses.

John Nkengasong, Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said access to vaccines remains the key challenge of COVAX, in a separate interview monitored by BusinessDay.

Many countries have the money in Africa to buy the vaccines, he stated, noting that through Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, the AU has secure up to 400 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

“We want other producers to enable African countries to have access to the vaccine market. It is really for our collective security interest to expand the vaccines to those who have not been vaccinated,” he said.

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