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WHO European chief backs COVID vaccine booster shots for the vulnerable

Christian Gravert, left, chief medical officer of the Deutsche Bahn, vaccinates a man with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a special train of the public transport S-Bahn, in which vaccination against COVID-19 are offered, in Berlin, Germany, August 30, 2021. (Christophe Gateau/dpa via AP)
Christian Gravert, left, chief medical officer of the Deutsche Bahn, vaccinates a man with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a special train of the public transport S-Bahn, in which vaccination against COVID-19 are offered, in Berlin, Germany, August 30, 2021. (Christophe Gateau/dpa via AP)

GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization’s European branch says he agrees with the top US infectious diseases expert that a third dose of coronavirus vaccines can help protect the people most vulnerable, and it shouldn’t be seen as a “luxury booster.”

Dr. Hans Kluge cites “deeply worrying” levels of high transmission, saying 33 countries among the 53 in the WHO Europe region have reported an increase in case counts of 10 percent or more over the past two weeks.

Kluge says he spoke this month with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious diseases expert, and says they share the same conviction that “a third dose of vaccine is not a luxury booster, taking away from someone who is still waiting for a first jab.”

“It’s basically a way to keep the people safe — the most vulnerable,” says Kluge, quickly adding that wealthy countries with excess vaccine doses “need to share” them with countries lacking them.

At WHO headquarters in Geneva, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other top officials have called for a moratorium on booster shots, saying doses should first be shared to help vaccinate vulnerable populations in countries that are lacking them.

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