A group of World Health Organization experts is calling for 70 percent of the global population to be fully vaccinated by mid-2022 to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from progressing in more dangerous ways. The 15-member Strategic Advisory Group of Experts, known as SAGE, which makes recommendations to WHO on vaccine policy and strategy, just concluded a four-day meeting.

The experts say more than enough vaccines are available to cover everyone by the middle of next year if the doses are not hoarded by wealthy countries and are shared equitably with poorer nations which as of yet do not have them. 

WHO director of immunization vaccines and biologicals Katherine O’Brien says it is urgent to get the doses to places that are falling behind in the race to vaccinate.

“Unless we do that, we will continue to have transmission and transmission will lead to more variants and the issue of the variants is that there is the potential for those variants to escape immune pressure and to undo much of the progress that has been made,” O’Brien said.

The experts recommend people who are moderately and severely immune compromised should be offered an additional or third dose of all COVID-19 vaccines. 

O’Brien says the third dose should be administered one to three months after people have received their second shot. 

“The intent of the third dose is to induce that person’s immune system to have protection that would be at the level that was demonstrated to prevent against severe disease, hospitalization, and death in the clinical trials, which excluded people with immuno-compromised conditions,” O’Brien said.

The SAGE experts say these additional shots are different from booster shots, which are not needed at this stage of the pandemic. For now, they say it is more important that people who have not been inoculated receive their jabs before people who are already vaccinated get a third dose.  

They say they will discuss booster shots at their next meeting November 11 and issue further recommendations then. 

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