The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday said that the coronavirus pandemic will “go on for a year longer than it needs to” because poorer countries were not getting the vaccines, BBC reported. The publication quoted Dr Bruce Aylward, senior leader at the WHO, said it meant the COVID crisis could “easily drag on deep into 2022”, as less than five per cent of Africa’s population have been vaccinated, compared to 40 per cent on most other continents.

The comments come on the same day that the US announced booster vaccine does from Johnson&Johnson and Moderna, with vaccine-mixing facilities given the go-ahead.

In September, the head of the WHO stated that he is opposed to widespread use of boosters for healthy people for now, underscoring the need to get doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to poorer countries. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke in Berlin on Wednesday. He said the UN health agency last week witnessed the first decline in new global cases in more than two months. “This is obviously very welcome, but it doesn’t mean much, since many countries are still seeing steep increases and shocking inequities in access to vaccines,” he said.  Tedros said he has called for a moratorium on booster shots at least until the end of September to allow those countries that are furthest behind to catch up.

Booster shots of coronavirus vaccines are now becoming the norm across the world. After the two normal doses, several countries like Israel have now instituted a third booster shot to augment antibodies.

Similar calls have been made in India. After the initial two doses of Covishield coronavirus vaccine, there should be a third dose preferably six months after the second shot, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said a month earlier. “After six months, the antibodies go down and that is why I have taken the third dose. We have given the third dose to our seven to eight thousand SII employees. For those who have completed the second dose, it is my request to take a booster dose third dose after six months,” he said.

Earlier, a study had claimed that the total antibody levels start to wane six weeks after complete immunisation with Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, and can reduce by more than 50 per cent over 10 weeks, according to study published in The Lancet journal. The researchers from University College London (UCL) in the UK noted that if the antibody levels carry on dropping at this rate, there are concerns that the protective effects of the vaccines may also begin to wear off, particularly against new variants. However, they said, how soon that might happen cannot be predicted yet.

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