About half a dozen other countries are considering the idea. If those countries also begin offering booster shots, “this will require an additional 800 million doses of vaccine,” said WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan at a press briefing on Monday.
Those doses should be going to countries that have had little access to the vaccines, said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He condemned rich and middle-income countries for contemplating third doses when frontline workers and older adults in poor countries haven’t yet received their first dose. Some countries have yet to launch mass vaccination campaigns. “Currently, data shows us that vaccination offers long-lasting immunity against serious and deadly covid-19,” he said. “The priority now must be to vaccinate those who have received no doses and protection.”
Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, put it more bluntly. “No matter what pharmaceutical companies tell you, you don’t need a Covid-19 booster more urgently than all the healthcare workers around the world who haven’t yet had access to a vaccine,” he tweeted.
That’s not to say that we won’t need boosters eventually. “It may well be that you need boosters after a year or two years,” WHO’s Swaminathan said. Wherry notes that it’s good to be prepared. But he has not seen any data to convince him that boosters are warranted now. “The emerging data says immunity is holding strong,” he says.