Wealthy countries may start to hoard Covid-19 vaccines again, threatening global supplies as they seek to shore up stocks to fight the new Omicron variant of the virus; a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday.
The warning by the head of WHO’s department of immunisation, vaccines and biologicals, Dr Kate O’Brien; comes as supplies to the Covax dose-sharing programme run by the WHO and vaccine charity GAVI have increased in the past few months; due to donations from wealthy countries and after India eased limits on exports of vaccines.
“What is going to shut down disease is for everybody who is especially at risk of disease to become vaccinated;” said Dr O’Brien. “We seem to be taking our eye off that ball in countries.”
Meanwhile, the WHO’s vaccine advisory panel recommends that people who are immunocompromised or received an inactivated vaccine should receive a booster dose of a Covid-19 shot; the head of the panel said on Thursday.
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The recommendation comes after the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunisation held a meeting on Tuesday to evaluate the need for Covid-19 boosters.
Separately, the EU medicines watchdog said on Thursday; the Omicron variant of coronavirus may cause milder disease.
Also, European Union countries are expected to agree to limit to nine months the duration of Covid-19 certificates for travel around the bloc, three EU sources told Reuters.
Johnson left reeling over party scandal
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday; faced a political backlash for imposing new virus restrictions and public fury about whether a Downing Street Christmas party last year broke lockdown rules.
Members of Johnson’s ruling Conservative party openly voiced opposition to his new guidance; to work from home and the prospect of compulsory vaccine passports.
Also, the number of cases of the Omicron variant in Britain has nearly doubled in one day; after a further 249 cases were confirmed on Thursday, bringing the total to 817.
The UK Health Security Agency said if the growth rate and doubling time continue at the rate seen in the last two weeks; they expect to see at least 50% of Covid-19 cases; to be caused by Omicron variant in the next two to four weeks.
Britain is also experiencing it worst ever outbreak of bird flu; farming and environment minister George Eustice told parliament on Thursday.
Britain’s chief vet Christine Middlemiss told BBC Radio on Thursday; that around 500,000 birds had been culled as a result of at least 36 outbreaks.
The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday expanded authorisation of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid booster to include 16- and 17-year-olds; amid growing concern over the Omicron variant’s ability to overcome immunity conferred by two shots.
Denmark’s PM defends decision to cull minks
Denmark’s PM Mette Fredriksen insisted on Thursday; she did not know her government’s decision last year in November to cull 15-17mn minks over fears of a new coronavirus strain was unlawful.
Austria plans to impose fines of up to around $4,000 on people who flout a vaccine mandate; it aims to introduce in February for all residents age 14 and over, the health minister said.