Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) says that a third jab of the COVID-19 vaccine cannot be ruled out in order to make the vaccine more efficient against the mutating virus.
Appearing on Rwanda Television, the Director General of RBC, Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana said that in regard to giving booster shots, which some countries have said they will be rolling out, it is highly likely that a third dose to improve efficacy of the vaccine would be administered considering that the virus is keeps changing itself.
“We’ve seen at least four major changes of the virus, normally called variants. The virus changes itself every single day, but in general, these are minor changes that make it even weaker than stronger,” he said, adding however that the changes in the virus can be unpredictable as was the case with the Delta variant, which proved that some variants can be more severe and dangerous.
“Having a third dose would probably bring the vaccine efficacy even higher than what it was last year, when most of the vaccines were tested, when the virus was not yet mutating,” Dr. Nsanzimana said.
He pointed that now that the virus has mutated, the vaccine is being tested on another type of virus to confirm that adding a dose makes it even more efficacious to the to the virus.
Dr. Nsanzimana said that a third dose should not be seen as a problem because it’s not the first-time booster shots have been given.
“For Covid-19, I believe that the third dose is going to be necessary if the virus keeps changing so that we can have a stronger and longer protection. I don’t see it as a problem. I see it as a normal way of boosting our immune or defence system,” Dr. Nsanzimana said.
He added that they hope the virus will get weaker and people keep observing the measures, as more people get vaccinated, hence the need for another dose won’t arise. However, if that doesn’t happen, a third dose will be necessary.
Long Covid Effects
In regard to long COVID-19 effects, where people stay with the effects of the virus long after recovering, Dr. Nsanzimana said they are following up on people who have recovered from Covid-19 since last year to see the impact of the virus on the human body.
“Generally, the previous virus was not that much severe but with Delta, we see a lot of damage in the lungs that people are suffering from even after testing negative,”
“The general symptoms that people who recovered have been presenting depend on the level of severity they went through. Those who have been on oxygen for a long time have been living with symptoms for a really long time,” Dr. Nsanzimana said.
He pointed out that generally the virus destroys the lung cells among such people and recovering becomes a challenge and in some cases not reversible.
“The issue of Covid-19 consequences that are affecting people who have recovered from the virus is becoming another kind of pandemic that we may be facing for those who have been affected by this virus,”
“That’s where the vaccine comes in as an important protecting factor, that those who took the vaccine, even if they get some severe symptoms, the damages to the lungs are totally from the damages without a vaccine,” he said.
He admitted that long Covid is a serious challenge for clinicians because they have been having cases where people who recovered from the treatment centres are coming back to the hospital because the lungs are not able to continue supplying the oxygen as well as they should.
Dr. Nsanzimana said that in some cases people need oxygen support yet they are not Covid-19 positive while in other cases people complain of fatigue for several months after recovering from Covid-19 while others lose the hearing sense.
“It affects a lot of organs. These cases are not many but we have cases we are following since last year,” Dr. Nsanzimana said.
Vaccine Impact not yet felt
Despite the country vaccinating over 880, 000 people, Dr. Nsanzimana said it is too early to say that vaccines are making a big difference, despite the steady decline in new COVID-19 cases.
He said however that there are good signs emerging from the ramped-up efforts to inoculate as many people as possible as the vaccines become available, particularly in taming deaths.
“We already see some good signs that vaccines are reducing deaths among people who have been covered before. We are seeing hospitals that were generally receiving severe cases mainly from the City of Kigali, nowadays we see transfers from other districts,”
“That’s why we are also trying to cover those districts as quickly as possible with the vaccines we have. So, basically, the effect of vaccines to reduce severe cases of mortality is being observed, for the ones we’ve covered before,” Dr. Nsanzimana said.
He however emphasized that it is still early to say that the impact of the vaccine nationwide has been attained, adding that the change is yet to be seen on the transmissions, much as results have been seen in terms of the vaccine reducing the severity of the disease and mortality.