COVID-19 Vaccines Inequity, Apathy Closes Hope for Booster Shots in Nigeria

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Bennett Oghifo

The question of whether it would be necessary to administer booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria is looking far-fetched considering the high level of hesitancy even in the out break of new variants of the disease.

The federal government may have given an all-clear signal last week with its directive to all public servants hitherto working from home to resume work in their offices from December 1, 2021.

This can only mean the infection rate has nosedived considerably, but nobody knows for certain if a segment of the society – the elderly, healthcare workers and the most vulnerable that have had the two shots of the vaccine would need a booster shot.

Specifically, it is unclear if studies are being conducted in Nigeria to ensure the government knows how long it will take for the immunity of COVID-19 vaccines to wane below protection level.

This we believe will enable the government to know if there will be a need to give boosters and after how long.

Such studies are being undertaken in Kenya, according to Prof Walter Jaoko, Director, KAVI, Institute of Clinical Research, University of Nairobi.

Prof. Jaoko stated this as he discussed ‘Efficacy of the different vaccines and what it means for personal and public health impact’, at a recent Cross-border Science Media Café, for Journalists in Nairobi, Kampala, Lusaka and Harare, organised with support of AVAC and moderated by Aghan Daniel, the Executive Secretary of Media for Science, Health, Environment and Agriculture (MESHA).

Jaoko said they are undertaking the study in Kenya to determine if the booster shot would be necessary. “He said, “Nobody knows for sure how long it will take for immunity to wane below protection level. That is why studies are going on to see if there will be need to give boosters and after how long. We here in my institute are following up people who have been vaccinated in Nairobi and we will have an answer next year.”

He said, “We cannot tell at this rate if we will depend on the vaccines because of the waning immunity. We just have to follow up people for a while. There are diseases such as influenza which require vaccinations every year, and there are vaccines that are given once and it protects for life e.g. yellow fever. We are hoping that the covid vaccines will protect for life rather than be given every year. But, we don’t know. Lets wait and see

“Tanning immunity is when one’s immune responses that are protecting from getting an infection gets less with time. This happens in many other vaccines too. That is why we give boosters. For example, yellow fever vaccine was given after 10 years because the evidence then was that after 10 years the vaccines were no longer protective.

“However, we now know that immunity lasts for life and we do not need to get boosters. That is the evidence we hope we will get from observing people vaccinated against COVID-19. We can only get this information by following up people who have been vaccinated, for a period of time.”