Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Tedros Adhanom GhebreyesusReuters

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday once again called for countries to avoid giving out extra COVID-19 shots until year-end, pointing to the millions worldwide who have yet to receive a single dose.

"I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world's poor should be satisfied with leftovers," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists, as quoted by AFP.

Speaking from WHO's headquarters in Geneva, Tedros urged wealthy countries and vaccine makers to prioritize getting the first jabs to health workers and vulnerable populations in poorer nations over boosters.

"We do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated," he stated.

Last month, Tedros called for a two-month moratorium on administering booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines as a means of reducing global vaccine inequality.

At the time, Tedros called on countries offering third vaccine doses "to share what can be used for boosters with other countries so (they) can increase their first and second vaccination coverage.”

On Wednesday, the WHO chief acknowledged that there had "been little change in the global situations since his last call.

"So today I am calling for an extension of the moratorium until at least the end of the year," he said.

High-income countries had promised to donate more than one billion vaccine doses to poorer countries, he said -- "but less than 15 percent of those doses have materialized.

"We don't want any more promises," he said. "We just want the vaccines."

Tedros previously urged the countries and companies controlling the supply of vaccine doses to prioritize addressing the drastic inequity in vaccine distribution between rich and poor nations.

The United States rejected the WHO appeal, saying the US has enough vaccines to both administer booster shots should they be needed as well as to supply poorer nations.

The WHO's emergency director Mike Ryan later condemned the rush by wealthy countries to provide COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, while millions around the world have yet to receive a single dose.