The World Health Organisation has called on wealthy countries to suspend the use of COVID-19 vaccine 'booster' shots until at least the end of September.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the focus must now be on getting more vaccines to low-income countries.
As the winter and autumn months approach, many countries - including Ireland - are already looking towards booster shots for those who may have been vaccinated in early 2021, amid continued concern over the Delta variant.
The Government here has said Ireland could start administering boosters as soon as next month, while Israel has already become the first country to start giving booster shots to older and vulnerable people.
However, data shows a stark difference in vaccination rates globally.
Many low-income countries - including many in Africa, south-east Asia and the Middle East - have vaccinated only a small percentage of the population to date.
At a news conference today, Dr Tedros said those countries still need initial vaccine supplies urgently - including to vaccinate frontline health workers.
He said: “Even while hundreds of millions of people are still waiting for their first dose, some rich countries are moving towards booster doses.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant - but we can and should not accept countries who’ve already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected.”
Dr Tedros said the world is currently “not on track” to meet its global vaccination target by September.
He said: “We need an urgent reversal - from the majority of vaccines going from high-income countries, to the majority going to low-income countries.
“Accordingly, WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September to enable at least 10% of the population of every country to be vaccinated.”
The WHO chief said that will need the full cooperation of everyone - in particular from the small number of countries and companies that control the world’s supply of vaccines.