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Mixed messages as Cyprus offers boosters to visitors

Government offers booster shots but natural immunity debate still unclear as Twitter Files make headlines


The Republic of Cyprus is offering to vaccinate short-term foreign visitors against the coronavirus, but the government’s position on booster shots remained unclear in the wake of recent revelations through the Twitter Files about discussions on natural immunity.

A health ministry announcement on Wednesday said officials were planning for the possibility to vaccinate foreign visitors who “wish to be inoculated against the virus,” clarifying that eligible individuals were people visiting the island for more than two weeks excluding immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees from third countries.

According to the health ministry, vaccination with a booster dose is recommended after three months have passed from the first positive test.

The announcement did not clarify whether people who contracted coronavirus in the past ought to consider getting the vaccine, a question that has remained in the air since the pandemic.

But the debate on vaccination versus natural immunity was back in the news this week following revelations from the latest batch of the Twitter Files, a document dump launched by Twitter owner Elon Musk who gave reporters access to data within the company.

Reporter Alex Berenson wrote that a Pfizer official and former FDA member had used his influence to flag a doctor's tweet that suggested natural immunity was more effective than vaccine immunity

Reporter Alex Berenson, whose Twitter account was reinstated after a permanent suspension in 2021 over COVID tweets, wrote this week that a Pfizer official had used his influence to flag a tweet that suggested natural immunity was more effective than vaccine immunity.

US medical doctor Brett Giroir had posted a tweet suggesting vaccination was not needed for those who had been already infected.

"It's now clear COVID19 natural immunity is superior to vaccine immunity, by ALOT. There's no science justification for vax proof if a person had prior infection,” Giroir had written.

But according to documents obtained by Berenson, Scott Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member who had previously worked for the US Food and Drug Administration, noticed the tweet and emailed a lobbyist in Twitter's Washington office in late August 2021.

"This is the kind of stuff that's corrosive. Here he draws a sweeping conclusion off a single retrospective study in Israel that hasn't been peer reviewed. But this tweet will end up going viral and driving news coverage," Gottlieb wrote in his email.

Berenson said that Gottlieb's email was forwarded to Twitter's Strategist Response team, asking “please see this report from the former FDA commissioner."

Giroir's tweet was then labeled "misleading" and could not be liked or shared by other users, who saw a warning that read “learn why health officials suggest a vaccine for most people."

Cypriot health experts also recommended vaccinations regardless of a prior COVID infection, while measures taken by the health ministry during the pandemic favored those who got vaccinated.

The decision to offer vaccinations to visitors in Cyprus came as the Cabinet also approved on Wednesday special COVID measures on travelers from China, after European officials argued there was lack of data from Beijing.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides reiterated her concerns on Wednesday when she told a primetime news program on Greece’s ERT network that the picture in China was not clear.

“The European Union is on alert and for us the pandemic is not over,” Kyriakides said, adding that the bloc had to be prepared for a possible outbreak due to the recent developments and the situation with China.

Kyriakides, who hails from Cyprus’ ruling party, had offered China free vaccines recently but Beijing, which has eased restrictions and dismissed European allegations, did not take her up on the offer.

“Vaccination and the vaccines remain our protection shield against COVID,” the commissioner told ERT.

Cyprus  |  pandemic  |  coronavirus  |  COVID  |  Twitter Files  |  vaccine  |  travel

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