WHO Representative emphasises importance of equality in COVID-19 vaccination

Update: 19:00 | 22/09/2021
As the COVID-19 pandemic has still been developing complicatedly in the world, WHO Representative in Viet Nam Dr. Kidong Park has said about the booster shot and pharmaceutical firms’ announcements that their COVID-19 vaccines are efficient and safe for kids.
WHO Representative emphasises importance of equality in COVID-19 vaccination
Illustrative image. (Photo: Hanoi Moi)

The following is the full text of the interview.

What is the World Health Organization (WHO)’s opinion about the necessity to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?

There are two key considerations guiding WHO’s position on booster doses. First is the scientific evidence. WHO is carefully monitoring the rapidly evolving body of evidence regarding the need for booster doses. There is currently no conclusive evidence stating that COVID-19 vaccine efficacy against severe disease and death wanes significantly over time.

There are several studies that indicate a decline in effectiveness against mild and moderate infection, however, prevention of severe disease and death is the most relevant outcome that the vaccines are intended to impact. There is emerging evidence that vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe disease and death.

WHO has not ruled out that boosters for some populations groups may be warranted in the future. WHO will continue to monitor any new evidence and will review its position as the data evolve.

The second is the moral and ethical implications. Whilst huge inequities in vaccine rollout continue across the world, the priority should be on ensuring that all countries use limited vaccine supplies to provide high coverage of first and second doses, to priority populations such as the health workers and frontline responders, elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

On August 4, 2021, WHO called for a time-limited moratorium on COVID-19 booster doses until the end of September with the intent to allow for at least 10 percent of every population of each country to be vaccinated.

WHO urges all countries to ensure that all vulnerable populations such as health workers and frontline responders, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions receive the primary course of vaccination, prior to providing boosters.

Many pharmaceutical brands have recently announced that their COVID-19 vaccines are efficient and safe for kids aged 3 years old above. What is WHO’s comment?

Efficacy and safety profiles of a vaccine in children might be different from those of adults. Injection volume for children might be different from those of adults.

Current evidence suggests that children, in general, are less likely to suffer from severe disease and death following COVID-19 infection or disease though children with underlying conditions are at increased risk of severe illness.

Because of this, COVID-19 vaccines are first developed for adults and priorities for vaccination are given to health care workers, frontline workers and high-risk populations such as the elderly and persons with co-morbidities.

After launching the vaccines for adults, the vaccine manufactures have continued their research for vaccines for children. To date, there is only one COVID-19 vaccine recommended for children from 12 – 18 years old by the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) and approved by the WHO Emergency Use Listing which is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

We are aware that other vaccine manufacturers are also conducting researches for COVID-19 vaccine for children. Once data is available, the national regulatory authorities will evaluate and consider emergency use authorization. WHO will also do so and update its recommendation and Emergency Use Listing.

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(Source: VNA)