BOOSTER SHOTS

Kenya's vaccine target at risk as rich nations give booster doses

WHO says countries giving booster doses are taking away vaccines from poor nations

In Summary
  • At least 11 rich countries are either rolling out boosters or considering plan to give booster doses next month.
  • At least two million Kenyans have been vaccinated against the virus.
Most poor Kenyans have not been vaccinated against the virus.
KIBERA SLUM: Most poor Kenyans have not been vaccinated against the virus.
Image: COURTESY

Numerous of rich countries have proceeded to give third Covid-19 vaccine doses, rejecting persistent calls by the World Health Organisation not to do so.

WHO strongly opposes booster shots for all adults in rich countries because this will divert vaccines away from unvaccinated people in poor countries, leading to the emergence of more dangerous mutants.

This would likely compromise Kenya’s plan to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of its population this year.

At least 11 rich countries are either rolling out boosters or considering to give booster doses next month.

They include the United States and most of the European Union.

An opinion in Nature journal last month noted there is no evidence that extra doses are needed to save lives, except for people with compromised immune systems, who might fail to generate much of an antibody response to the initial Covid-19 shots.

An analysis by WHO estimates that if the 11 rich countries were to give the shots to everyone over 50years old, they would use up roughly 440 million doses of the global supply.

 If all high-income and upper-middle-income nations were to do the same, the estimate doubles.

"I'm afraid that this (booster recommendation) will only lead to more variants. ... And perhaps we're heading into an even more dire situation," WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said.

Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said in a statement that evidence suggests that antibody levels against Covid-19 may decline over time and that a third dose could help boost them.

However, he said declining antibodies does not necessarily mean reduced protection, since other factors, such as T cells play an important role here too.

“Whether existing vaccines are used as a third shot, or new versions are developed that target specific variants, the result will be the same; it will mean there are fewer doses available for the rest of the world,” he said.

“It will either divert doses directly or indirectly—by consuming manufacturing capacity and the raw materials needed to make vaccines —away from where they are needed the most.”

At least two million Kenyans have been vaccinated against the virus.

Early this week, former President Moi personal physician Dr David Silverstein advised patients and friends to get a third shot of the vaccine saying there have been cases of patients fully immunised with the AstraZeneca vaccine who suffered severe infections.

“Although we are not doing variant testing on all cases, we know that the Delta variant represents the majority of the cases. We were previously told that being fully (double) vaccinated protected us against severe disease. That is not holding out to be true,” Silverstein said.

The doctor said the elderly, those with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, connective tissue disease, with cancers with or without chemotherapy were most vulnerable.

Silverstein advised persons yet to be vaccinated with even a single to do so immediately.

-Edited by SKanyara