By Professor Arthur G.O. Mutambara
There are current discussions in the United States and Europe about the need for a Covid-19 booster shot after one is fully vaccinated. There has not been enough interrogation of the meaning of this new development.
1) When the position that after two vaccine jabs (one jab for Johnson & Johnson) one is fully vaccinated and there is no need for further vaccination; was this position informed by science or conjecture? What does fully vaccinated mean, and what was the scientific basis for that assertion?
2) The proposed Covid-19 booster shot will be sufficient for how long? Are we going to have a booster shot every year (or every six months) as a way of life? What science is driving the decision around the booster shot?
3) If a pharmaceutical company develops two vaccines, one which is applied once and done (two jabs or one) and another which must be injected every year, which vaccine would the company promote? Clearly, the latter vaccine provides a steady flow of income in perpetuity at the expense of efficient resolution of a public health threat.
4) When there is tension or conflict between healthcare interests (saving lives) and commercial interests (making money), which interests triumph?
5) Who is responsible for resolving the tension in 4, and are they not conflicted by having vested interests?
6) How independent are the FDA, CDC, WHO and national governments from big pharmaceutical companies?
7) How independent are our scientists, researchers, doctors, research centres and universities from big pharmaceutical companies? How much funding and incentives do they receive from such companies?
8) Covid-19 interventions, discourse (e.g., booster shot, fully vaccinated, herd immunity); what do we need to do to ensure that all these concepts and activities are driven by pure science and NOT commercial interests, political considerations, propaganda or geopolitics.
Of course, as Africans, in addition to asking questions, we must take charge of our public health. We must research, develop and manufacture our own vaccines and medicines for this Covid-19 outbreak and any future pandemics.
Indeed, this we have already started doing.