Reduce the price of Covid-19 vaccines

Saturday February 13 2021

A box containing vials of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is pictured at the Foch hospital in Suresnes, France, on February 6, 2021, on the start of a vaccination campaign for health workers with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. PHOTO/AFP.

By Guest Writer

There was a lot of hype following recent development of Covid-19 vaccines. There was unrealistic notion that we have finally got the magic bullet for eliminating Covid-19. We probably forgot that RNA viruses tend to be unstable and mutate from time to time. 

Many developing countries, including Uganda, opted for Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine due to minimal costs on cold storage. But it is now being claimed that this vaccine provides limited protection against the South African variant of Covid-19 called B.1.351. Additionally, Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine faces questions of limited data on elderly persons of more than 65 years of age, as a number of leading European countries restrict its use to persons who are below 65 years. 

South Africa has, as a result,  suspended the start of AstraZeneca inoculation programme over concerns that the shot may not adequately protect against the Covid-19 type in the country.  

This development comes against the backdrop of a decision taken by our government to procure 18 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca at $7 per dose or $14 per person (each person gets two jabs of the vaccine). You may be aware that some developed countries are paying less than half the price for the same vaccine. It is ironic to pay such a high price for a vaccine that may not adequately protect against the South African variant given our close ties with South Africa.

Given the state of affairs, government should engage the concerned supplier to lower the prices. 
Virologists have observed that attaining herd immunity is virtually impossible and recommended recipients of Covid-19 vaccines to receive booster against the virus in future, an equivalent to annual flu vaccines, in light of emergence of new variants.

The trend of buying booster Covid-19 vaccines in future is not sustainable for a highly indebted country like Uganda. We should understand that Covid-19 patients do not die from the virus itself, but rather they die from exaggerated response of their immune systems to the virus in form of excessive inflammation called cytokine storms. The severity of Covid-19 is positively correlated with fever and excessive inflammation.


Therefore, government should consider buying alternative solutions to vaccines that limit inflammation such as external cooling. External cooling is a cost-effective treatment that uses free cool air to reduce fever and inflammation.  I invented complementary methods for external cooling in 2002 and produced a detailed clinical guideline on use of cool air as a therapy. This clinical guideline is superior to other external cooling guidelines issued by Kaiser Permanente, WHO and UK NICE for controlling fever and homecare of Covid-19 patients by four measures, including speedy response to the earliest symptoms; 24-hour complementary methods for external cooling; exposure of key body parts that are adapted to external cooling and resilient to shivering; and describes scientific evidence by which external cooling reduces inflammation. 

Although ibuprofen has anti-inflammatory effects, it raises risks of complications of lung infections and gastrointestinal disorders; whereas paracetamol has no anti-inflammatory effects though it controls fever.

Ronald Eporu,