“At the moment, it’s like throwing a second buoy for some while others are drowning at the side,” said on Wednesday (25th) the director general of the WHO (World Health Organization), Tedros Ghebreyesus, about the decision of some countries to give a booster dose to those who have already been fully immunized against Covid.
More than a moral problem, it is a public policy error, said several directors of the organization. “Decision makers should not use scarce resources like the vaccine in an application without scientific evidence, diverting it from its two main priorities at the moment: preventing deaths and preventing the emergence of more dangerous variants”, said Kate O’Brien, director of WHO immunization.
Despite not being recommended by the international entity, governments have opted for the application of reinforcement in part of their population, mainly to try to contain the additional risk of the more contagious delta variant.
This is the case in Brazil: on Thursday, the federal government announced that the elderly will start receiving it on September 15th, and the São Paulo government will start the third round of injections on the 6th, for those over 60 years old.
For WHO’s chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, precipitation can be both wasteful and inefficient. She says a recent panel of scientists from several leading institutes concluded that there is still not enough evidence either on the effectiveness of a third dose or on its safety.
On the other hand, there is already a consensus that the originally prescribed complete immunization (one dose, in the case of Janssen, and two doses for the others) offers lasting protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death, which are the great harm of this pandemic, of according to O’brien.
“Without scientific proof that boosting is needed, vaccines need to go to the most vulnerable and to doctors and nurses desperate for protection in the world’s poorest countries,” said the director of immunization.
It is also a long-term issue, according to her, since the slow progress of immunization in part of the world keeps the pandemic active, in addition to opening the way for mutations that may even escape the protection offered by the drugs used at the time.
Last week, according to WHO data, 4.5 million people were diagnosed with Covid and 68,000 died from the disease worldwide. “There was stabilization, but at a very high level and, above all, very uneven,” said Ghebreyesus.
Swaminathan said that only with more experiments will it be possible to determine whether vaccine boosters are really necessary and that this recommendation may vary according to the immunizing agent taken previously, the variant present in the country and the risk group in question.