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COVID boosters needed, reversing previous call said WHO

by Pragati Singh

In the wake of the global spread of omicron, an expert group convened by the World Health Organization said on Tuesday that it “strongly supports urgent and broad access” to booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine, capping a reversal of the UN agency’s repeated assertions last year that boosters were unnecessary for healthy people and contributed to vaccine inequity. WHO noted in a statement that inoculation with licenced COVID-19 vaccines provides significant levels of protection against severe sickness and death as the highly infectious omicron form continues to spread.

In January, the WHO softened its stance, saying that boosters were only advised once nations had enough supply and had protected their most vulnerable citizens. Vaccination, including boosters, was especially beneficial for patients at risk of severe illness, according to the report. Last year, when dozens of nations began delivering booster doses, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a ban on booster doses, suggesting that wealthier countries should instead provide vaccines to needy ones. At the time, WHO experts stated that they would continue to analyse new evidence.

WHO said it is continue to monitor omicron’s global expansion, including a “stealth” variant known as BA.2, which has been recorded to re-infect some persons after an initial omicron infection. There is conflicting evidence as to whether it produces more severe illness, but immunizations appear to be equally effective. The latest COVID-19 vaccinations, according to WHO, are all based on the strain that was initially discovered in Wuhan, China, more over three years ago. “Since then, there has been continual and significant viral evolution, and this evolution is expected to continue, leading in the creation of new variations,” the agency added. It went on to say that coronavirus vaccinations would almost certainly need to be modified.


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