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U.S. COVID-19 Booster Shots Decision Underscores Urgent Need for a ‘People’s Vaccine,’ Global Equity: PHR

In response to the Biden administration’s announcement that it will begin to offer booster COVID-19 vaccines to all eligible people in the U.S. beginning September 20, the following statement is attributable to Max Hadler, MPH, MA, PHR’s COVID-19 senior policy expert:

“As of today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved booster shots for immunocompromised people, a population of approximately three percent of U.S. residents at high risk from COVID-19 that needs special attention. The FDA has not, as of now, approved boosters for the general population.

“Evidence of waning immunity in fully-vaccinated individuals is concerning, but while the U.S. government plans booster vaccine distribution it must also work tirelessly to vaccinate those who have received no vaccine shots to date, in the United States and around the world. 

“The United States and other high-income countries have hoarded an extraordinary proportion of the global vaccine supply to date – so much that the United States is currently throwing away massive amounts of expiring doses while putting in new orders for more vaccines to support booster plans that remove those doses from the global supply.

“Providing boosters for healthy residents in high-income countries without increasing global supply and distribution will deepen already unacceptable inequities in global vaccine access. Health workers and immunocompromised people in low-income countries will be forced to wait even longer for access to this lifesaving technology. It is a profound injustice that fully-vaccinated young, healthy people in the United States are in line to receive more than two vaccine doses before health workers in low-income countries receive their first dose.

“In light of emerging evidence of a possible need for boosters for the fully vaccinated, most of whom live in high-income countries, the need for a People’s Vaccine has never been clearer. Governments must agree to waive intellectual property rights and force pharmaceutical companies to transfer technology to broaden vaccine production and effective distribution across the globe, starting now. Rich countries donating paltry amounts of left-over doses is nowhere near sufficient to end the pandemic – we need a transformational approach. 

“Failing to protect high-risk populations anywhere in the world is bad public health practice, opening the door to more dangerous variants and a never-ending cycle driven by inequity.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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