Giving a third COVID jab is like “giving out extra life jackets while others drown”, a WHO scientist has said – as the US announces plans to start their rollout next month.
The Delta variant is now dominant in the country, and while the US will start by giving the tertiary doses to healthcare workers, nursing home residents, and older people, advice from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention states that all double-vaccinated people should get a third dose – albeit at least eight months after their second.
This applies to people who had the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine, although officials say those who had a “single” dose Johnson and Johnson jab may also get a booster.
Several US agencies have reported that protection in double-jabbed people wanes after six or so months, and that boosters can help.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against third doses being administered, saying that getting first and second doses to countries with lower vaccination rates is more important to fight the pandemic.
The UK government has announced plans for third booster doses to increase protection ahead of winter.
The WHO’s chief scientist, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, says that data she has seen does not support the need for a third dose.
The organisation’s executive director, Dr Michael Ryan, said: “The reality is right now today, if we think about this in terms of an analogy, we’re planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket.”
The number of coronavirus cases in the US is rising, with some parts of the country also having a low uptake of the vaccine.
About 51% of the US population is fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, 962,852 new cases and 5,151 deaths were recorded in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In Mississippi, two field hospitals have been set up to deal with increasing numbers of patients with the virus. Only 34% of the state’s population has been vaccinated.
There are also wranglings between states and schools in some parts of the US over “mask mandates” – the requirement to wear a mask.
In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey is threatening to pull funding from educators who require students to wear masks.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has also tried to ban the mandates.
In Dallas, it was reported that no intensive care beds for children remained.
Dr Carissa Etienne, of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), said today that the Delta variant was now dominant in North America.
She added that while cases had fallen in most parts of South America in the past week, they had risen by a third in the US and by a half in Canada.