KEY POINTS

  • WHO experts held a media briefing Tuesday
  • The chief scientist said SAGE will convene to determine how countries should "think about giving boosters"
  • She emphasized that the focus should be on giving first doses to the unvaccinated ones

There is so far "no evidence" that healthy children and adolescents need booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization's (WHO) chief scientist has said.

Many people have been scrambling to get booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly. Even children as young as 12 years old are already being offered booster shots in various countries, reported Reuters.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even expanded the recommendation for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to young people aged 12 to 17 five months after their initial vaccination series.

But according to WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, there is "no evidence" to support the need for healthy children and adolescents to get a booster shot.

"There's no evidence right now that healthy children or healthy adolescents need boosters, no evidence at all," Swaminathan said in a media briefing Tuesday, adding that the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) will be meeting later this week to determine how countries should "think about giving boosters."

"(A)t this point in time, our focus, considering that we still have so many unvaccinated people in the world, is to vaccinate, provide primary doses to those who've not been vaccinated so far, while at the same time trying to protect the most vulnerable in every country's population," she added.

Dr. Michael Ryan of WHO Health Emergencies Programme also noted that the agency still hasn't determined how many doses people would really need, citing some people's concerns that a booster may be needed every few months or so.

"I don't think we have an answer to that yet," he said.

The WHO has been stressing the importance of vaccine equity, with many countries still struggling to vaccinate their populations.

In December, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that blanket COVID-19 booster programs in the countries that can afford the vaccines and already have high vaccination coverage could "prolong the pandemic and increase inequity." Instead, the focus should be on helping countries vaccinate their populations.

At that time, only half of WHO member states were able to vaccinate 40% of their populations because of "distortions in global supply."

"We can only beat this virus is we work together and share the health tools equitably. It's really that simple," Ghebreyesus said in the Tuesday briefing.

"As the Director-General said, the pathway to a long-term control of the impacts of COVID-19 and ultimately on the pandemic itself lie in increasing the number of people who are vaccinated, particularly those who are vulnerable," Ryan added.

Germans have been encouraged to get booster shots of the coronavirus vaccines Germans have been encouraged to get booster shots of the coronavirus vaccines Photo: AFP / JOSEPH PREZIOSO