Is third dose of vaccine becoming symbol of inequality?

Author : Polina Davydova

Source : 112 Ukraine

Antibodies against coronavirus decline after vaccination and a third dose may be the solution. However, WHO urged not to rush and share the vaccine with poor countries
09:51, 10 August 2021

Open source

Vaccination of the population in different countries is unfair, WHO notes. While some countries are trying to get the first doses for vulnerable groups, richer countries are beginning to contemplate third "booster" vaccinations.

We figure out which countries are planning third-dose vaccination, why and what WHO offers in return.

WHO versus third doses

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on wealthy countries not to vaccinate their populations with a third dose of coronavirus until at least the end of September.

The head of the WHO said about the inequality in access to vaccines between rich and poor countries, where a significant part of the population did not even receive the first dose. Thus, health care providers and other vulnerable people in poor countries are at risk. WHO has asked for a global moratorium on "booster dose".

"We cannot agree that countries that have already used most of the global vaccine supply are starting to use even more vaccines," said the head of WHO.

Previously, WHO insisted on reaching the target of vaccination of 10% of each country by the end of September. Until July 23, both North America and Europe had administered at least one dose of the vaccine to nearly half of all residents. But others lag far behind: just over 2% of the African population was vaccinated.

Some experts fear that this could further exacerbate the unfair distribution of vaccines, The Washington Post reports. The publication emphasizes that "boosters" are quickly becoming a symbol of inequality.

"The United States vaccinates young and healthy people, but it also wants to give boosters to the elderly; you just need to shake your head and say, 'Well, okay, it's nice that you are giving me a few doses," says Georgetown University professor Lawrence Gostin.

At the same time, selling booster doses is a profitable business, The Economist notes. Pfizer and Moderna have announced that a third dose of their vaccines will be required and are lobbying governments for permission to do so. The publication drew attention to the fact that pharmaceutical companies have recently raised prices. Pfizer raised its 2021 revenue forecast at the end of July to $ 33.5 billion.

All this is due to the Delta strain

The debate about the need for a third dose of vaccine developed after the publication of the results of studies showing the weakening of antibodies over time.

As an argument in favor, they consider the threat from the aggressive Delta strain. It turned out that it is more contagious and vaccination is not 100% protection against the virus, and fully vaccinated can infect others. Vaccines still protect against severe disease and hospitalization of patients with "Alpha" and "Delta".

Five of the six vaccines approved by WHO require two doses, several months apart. The third dose of vaccine, be it the same vaccine or a different one, offers a short-term immunity boost.

Thus, the third dose of Pfizer can enhance protection against the Delta strain, and the level of antibodies increases 5-11 times. Chinese researchers reported that antibodies from CoronaVac vaccinations disappear approximately 6 months after the second dose. Laboratory research has shown that the third dose may have an enhancing effect.

Revaccination. List of countries

In Israel, since August 1, a revaccination campaign has been underway for 60+ citizens vaccinated no earlier than five months ago. One of the first to receive the third dose was President. As of today, there are already 262 563 vaccinated with the third dose, this is 3% of the population. However, there are still tightening restrictions from August 8 (due to the Delta strain) and authorities declare that a lockdown is inevitable if the population is not vaccinated.

Germany will offer a third Biontech / Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for seniors and people at risk from September 1. The German government fears "a weakening of the immune response to the coronavirus" among some groups.

France plans to vaccinate vulnerable and elderly people, who were first vaccinated in January and February, with a third dose in the fall. But so far, the French authorities are in no hurry to offer a third dose for the entire population, because scientists are interested in more data on the duration of immunity in young people.

Related: New pandemic wave to spread in Ukraine from regions bordering with Russia

In Hungary, on August 1, they began to offer a third dose of vaccines to those who ask for it.

In the UK, from September 6, they can begin vaccination of citizens with the third dose against Covid-19 to protect against the Delta strain. While discussions are going on in the country, the doctors were told to prepare for the fall. First of all, adults 50+ will be vaccinated, as well as people with weakened immunity.

The European Commission is preparing to launch a campaign to revaccinate the population with a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Decisions will be made on a scientific basis, the EC is awaiting the opinion of the EMA.

Why are the US and Europe against a moratorium on "boosters"?

The United States has not yet officially decided to use the third dose, but has already opposed the moratorium on boosters proposed by the WHO.

White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said the US can simultaneously inject Americans with a "booster" and send vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. She also added that the US has donated more vaccines than any other country in the world.

Germany has also denied the allegations, saying it will also donate at least 30 million doses of vaccines to poorer countries.

"We want to provide vulnerable groups in Germany with a preventive third vaccine and at the same time support the vaccination of as many people in the world as possible," the country's health ministry said.     

Related: Do but die: Lukashenko urges Zelensky to hold talks with occupied Donbas

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