Dr. Kemi Olugemo to Jackson M’vunganyi — COVID-19 could be here longer

Nigeria-born American Neurologist Dr. Kemi Olugemo says the current vaccines administered across the world in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic do certainly give people some protection although the extent of the protection was not fully known.

She says 9 to 12 months after people get vaccinated against COVID-19 they need to take immune boosters to help rejuvenate their immune system and make their body’s ability to continue to make antibodies better if they are to counter infections.

Dr. Olugemo made these known to the Voice of America’s (VOA) Jackson M’vunganyi on the Upfront show hosted by Jackson and broadcast from the VOA news headquarters in the United States (US) capital, Washington DC, to a global audience.

In their May 2021 broadcast monitored by Dr. Olugemo in her conversation with Mr. M’vunganyi admitted to concerns that the current vaccines being rolled out in many countries might be rendered ineffective by emerging COVID-19 variants such as those seen in countries like Brazil and South Africa — slowly making their ways around the world.

Dr. Kemi Olugemo

Kemi who is also the current director of communications at Women of Color in Pharma (WOCIP) therefore urged people to continue to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and ensure they mask up when they are in crowded places and public spaces as well, encouraging people to get vaccinated when that becomes possible for them to do.

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Yes there is a threat too — the new variants — that is the reason to mask up when you are in crowded places and public places. But I see in terms of the boosters that are being developed that they are going to keep up with the [new] variants, but we also know that some of the vaccines have now offered some level of protection so we are not a 100% where we need to be but it’s a risk we need to continue to monitor,” the Neurologist told Jackson.

Jackson M’vunganyi photo courtesy Voice of America

Dr. Kemi touching on the current surge in COVID-19 cases in India and what developing Countries could learn from it indicated that the situation was really astonishing and devastating. She noted that some people might have relaxed in adhering to the safety protocols after cases declined there. She however applauded India for leading the COVAX initiative to manufacture and distribute vaccines to developing countries and asked for support for the heavily stricken nation.

Dr. Olugemo says the situation in India could improve soon as countries rally around to invest to support India and in a post-interview, after the show with she said it was exciting that the US is also slowly opening up. “I just want to express that we don’t fully understand the virus yet, so let’s still practice our safety protocols even as things begin to open up for the country to start entertaining some small sense of normalcy in life.

On the issue of global herd immunity, she said on the Upfront show that that could not be achieved any time soon until every country strives individually to get there. She explains: “It’s very important to continue to try to achieve this goal because as difficult as it is, continuing in the manner we are right now without herd immunity is worse…” adding that “the COVID-19 pandemic could still be around for several years than expected.

Also a researcher and healthcare advocate, Dr. Olugemo is currently Executive Medical Director of Neurology Clinical Development at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. In the US, where she is also a Fellow of The American Academy of Neurology (FAAN). Find her on LinkedIn under her name.

Written by Oral Ofori

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