Developing countries need vaccines before boosters are given to everyone in Ireland, says WHO Covid chief

A leading member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it is more important to vaccinate people in developing countries right now than to provide boosters to everyone in Ireland.

he WHO’s Special Envoy on Covid-19 Dr David Nabarro, said vaccinating people in developing countries will save more lives in the long-run, as it will reduce the risk of new Covid-19 variants developing.

“A new variant can come from anywhere and the best way to reduce the risk of these variants is to spread the vaccine widely,” he told RTÉ’s News.

Dr Nabarro said he understands why countries – including Ireland – are keen to boost their populations but argued more lives can be saved by sharing vaccines with poorer nations.

“Which is better, giving everybody a boost now or perhaps waiting a couple of months until we’ve managed to get the basic supplies out for the health workers and the older people in poor countries and then boosting Ireland, UK, Europe in a couple of months’ time?

“Quite honestly, I believe that many, many more lives will be saved if we can just delay a bit in the advanced nations, so that the developing countries can catch-up. That’s what best for the whole world,” he added.

He said individual countries such as Ireland have made substantial an effort to share vaccines but “we’ve not done well as a world on sharing the vaccines properly”.

In relation to the Omicron variant – which the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said is “likely” present in Ireland now – Dr Nabarro moved to reassure the Irish public by saying the new variant “did not come as a surprise” and “we do know what needs to be done”.

“Yes, we’re worried but it’s what we were expecting, and we do know how countries could organise themselves to best deal with this threat,” he said.

Dr Nabarro explained that the latest variant spreads the same as the Wuhan and Delta virus and said basic public health measures can be used to tackle it.

He said mask wearing, social distancing and proper ventilation can protect people even if the Omicron variant can “breakthrough” vaccines.

“If Omicron can breakthrough the vaccination protection that we’ve all got used to in the last few months, then that adds to the difficulties, but it doesn’t take away from the basic approach of face masking and distancing, which has been at the heart of our preventive strategy,” he added.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

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