SWITZERLAND, US: An expert group convened by the World Health Organisation said Tuesday it “strongly supports urgent and broad access” to booster doses, in a reversal of the U.N. agency’s previous insistence that boosters weren’t necessary and contributed to vaccine inequity.
In a statement, WHO said its expert group concluded that immunisation with authorised COVID-19 vaccines provide high levels of protection against severe disease and death amid the global circulation of the hugely contagious omicron variant.
It said vaccination, including the use of boosters, was especially important for people at risk of severe disease.
Last year, WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a moratorium on booster doses while dozens of countries embarked on administering the doses, saying rich countries should immediately donate those vaccines to poor countries instead. WHO said it is continuing to monitor the global spread of omicron, including a “stealth” version known as BA. 2, which has been documented to have re-infected some people after an initial case of omicron. There’s mixed research on whether it causes more severe disease, but vaccines appear just as effective against it.
Meanwhile, cases of a highly transmissible Omicron subvariant were doubling in the US each week over the past month, according to the data updated on Tuesday by the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The variant, BA.2, was responsible for 11.6 per cent of coronavirus infections in the country in the week ending March 5, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the CDC estimates.
The variant accounted for only 1 per cent of new cases in the week ending February 5, rising to 2.2 per cent in the week ending February 12, 3.8 per cent in the week ending February 19, and 6.6 per cent in the week ending February 26, CDC data showed.
New lab and animal experiments suggested that BA.2 may be capable of causing more severe disease than the original Omicron strain.
– IANS, PTI