The World Health Organization now recommends COVID-19 boosters, reversing a previous recommendation.
The World Health Organization organized an expert committee on Tuesday that “strongly advocates prompt and broad access” to booster doses, reversing the UN agency’s prior position that boosters were unnecessary and contributed to vaccine inequities.
WHO said in a statement that its expert group decided that immunization with approved COVID-19 vaccines provides high levels of protection against severe disease and death in the face of the highly contagious Omicron variant’s global spread.
Vaccination, including boosters, was especially beneficial for patients at risk of severe illness, according to the report.
Last year, while dozens of nations began delivering booster doses, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a ban on booster doses, suggesting that wealthier countries should instead provide vaccines to needy ones. At the time, WHO scientists stated that they would continue to analyze new evidence.
Booster doses of approved vaccines have since been confirmed in numerous scientific trials to help restore fading immunity and protect against serious COVID-19. Booster programs in wealthy countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States are credited with preventing Omicron diseases from spreading to hospitals and cemeteries.
WHO said it is continuing to monitor Omicron’s global spread, including a “stealth” variant known as BA.2, which has been recorded to re-infect some persons after an initial Omicron infection. There is conflicting evidence as to whether it produces more severe disease, but immunizations appear to be equally effective.
The latest COVID-19 vaccinations, according to WHO, are all based on the strain that was first discovered in Wuhan, China, more than three years ago.
“Since then, there has been continual and significant virus evolution, and this evolution is likely to continue, leading in the creation of new variations,” the agency added. It went on to say that coronavirus vaccinations would almost certainly need to be modified.