In the United States, nearly 50 percent of all residents are fully vaccinated. But in India only about 5 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. In much of Africa, less than 1 percent of people are vaccinated. The concern is that the longer large parts of the world remain unvaccinated, the greater the risk that new, more threatening variants will emerge.
“Americans’ lives are still at risk if there are major outbreaks elsewhere with further variants,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health. “Even if you take a very narrow lens that only cares about American lives, there is still a very compelling argument that a first shot is more useful to an Indian than a third shot to an American.”
In a press conference on Monday, World Health Organization chairman Pfizer’s plan declined to apply for approval for booster injections. “The priority now must be to vaccinate those who have not received doses and protection,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Who will be first in line to get booster vaccinations once they’re approved?
Some countries already give booster vaccinations to people with compromised immune systems, including people who have had cancer treatment or have had an organ transplant. Since April, healthcare providers in France have been routinely giving a third dose of a two-dose vaccine to people with certain immune disorders. Israel also announced on Monday that it would give high-risk adults a third dose of vaccine.
In addition, Moderna is preparing to test a third dose in 120 organ transplant recipients, and Pfizer, which makes some immunity-suppressing drugs, plans to study 180 adults and 180 children with compromised immune systems.
An estimated 5 percent of the US population is considered to be immunocompromised due to health problems or drug treatments. Although it may take months to recommend a booster vaccination for the general population, it is possible that federal health officials approve an additional vaccination for a select group of vulnerable patients with compromised immune systems.
Dr. Jha said the medical community is awaiting instructions from the CDC and FDA on whether to give booster doses to people with immunodeficiency who have not developed adequate protection after a standard vaccination. “There is some data that shows that a third shot helps these people,” said Dr. Yeh. “It really requires the commitment of your specialist. I think most doctors say hold up. You would like to see the CDC recommendations on this. “