Booster dose should be given as a priority to the most vulnerable populations — including people with weakened immune systems — as well as people over age 60 and health care workers.

The World Health Organization’s Europe office says projections show its 53-country region could face another 700,000 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic by next spring, topping 2 million in total, AP reports.

WHO Europe, which is based in Copenhagen, Denmark, also cited growing evidence of a decline in protection against infection and mild disease through vaccines, and said a “booster dose” should be given as a priority to the most vulnerable populations — including people with weakened immune systems — as well as people over age 60 and health care workers.

The U.N. health agency’s international headquarters in Geneva, however, has repeatedly called for a moratorium on the use of boosters through year-end so that doses can be made available for many developing countries that have faced a severe lack of the COVID-19 vaccines compared to the rich world.

WHO Europe called on people to get vaccinated and respect proper hygiene and practice social distancing to help stop the spread of the virus.

“Today, the COVID-19 situation across Europe and Central Asia is very serious. We face a challenging winter ahead, but we should not be without hope, because all of us — governments, health authorities, individuals — can take decisive action to stabilize the pandemic,” said Dr. Kluge, the regional director for WHO Europe, in a statement.

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