As more information has come to light regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and its efficacy, federal, state, and local public health entities recommending COVID-19 booster vaccines. The California Department of Public Health has encouraged the public to receive booster shots to “help keep immunity strong and increase protection against COVID-19.”
While the United States encourages the public to boost, as per the World Health Organization, countries around the globe are desperate for even their first dose of the vaccine. The World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus criticized blanket COVID-19 booster programs saying, “Blanket booster programs are likely to prolong the pandemic, rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate.”
Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren told us he agreed with the World Health Organization’s concerns that “failing to vaccinate the population of the whole world as quick as possible is detrimental to all and will prolong the epidemic.”
Dr. Coren went on to argue that scarcity of the COVID-19 vaccine in nations around the globe was not a result of blanket booster programs, but a result of the “profit and control by the powerful and rich few” who have held tightly onto the intellectual property associated with the COVID-19 vaccination rather than share with manufacturers around the world.
Companies like Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca stand to make billions in profits from the COVID-19 vaccines. Despite the Biden administration’s support for the waiving of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, these companies still retain control limiting the world supply and prolonging the pandemic.
The globe’s vaccine deserts are not a result of the “concern for quality control, quality care, or any care for anything,” Dr. Coren asserted. These shortages are a result of failing to act on the principle that these “patents would be shared so the many competent manufacturers in other countries could manufacture on their own.” Dr. Coren characterized these companies prioritizing profits over global health as “unconscionable and harmful to everyone, all over the world.”
Whether the push for boosters in the United States will result in the Center for Disease Control redefining being fully vaccinated as having boosters remains to be seen. Statewide 43.3% of Californians have received their COVID-19 booster and public health entities continue to message the importance as the omicron variant sweeps across the United States.
As recently as two weeks ago, the White House continues to collaborate with industry and the World Trade Organization to waive these intellectual property rights, a major obstacle to ending the worldwide pandemic.