Top U.S. health officials are dismissing criticism from the World Health Organization over the plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots to vaccinated Americans while some parts of the world are still struggling to get access to coronavirus vaccines.
The Biden administration on Wednesday formally introduced recommendations that Americans over the age of 18 who received the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines should get a third booster shot eight months after receiving their second dose.
Booster shots will be available on Sept. 20, pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
At a virtual press conference announcing the booster program, members of the White House COVID-19 response team were asked to respond to comments from Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, who had objected to the move.
“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,” Ryan said.
White House COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients said that the United States can do both.
“To end this pandemic, we have to protect the American people, and we have to continue to do more and more to vaccinate the world,” Zients said. “Both are critical.”
Zients noted that in June and July the United States administered 50 million vaccine doses to Americans while shipping more than 100 million overseas.
And the U.S. has donated more doses than all other countries combined, he said.
“We're already proving we can protect our own people here at home as we help others,” Zients said.
He added that the U.S. expects to administer 100 million booster shots to Americans while shipping an additional 200 million vaccine doses to other countries in the coming months.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said that Ryan’s analogy is flawed.
“I do not accept the idea that we have to choose between America and the world,” Murthy said. “We clearly see our responsibility to both.”
“We’ve got to do everything we can to protect people here at home while recognizing that tamping down the pandemic and getting people vaccinated across the world is going to be key to preventing the rise of future variants,” he said. “We know that.”
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