A great rift has been taking place within the government’s scientific advisory team in the Republic of Cyprus, with some members demanding more data and a bigger say on policy and others ready to offer their opinions whenever officials need expert advice.
According to local media, a number of scientists on the government’s advisory committee have been calling on officials to provide more data on the coronavirus pandemic, including Constantinos Tsioutis who heads the task force.
The top expert has gone public with concerns that the coronavirus was still being spread despite vaccination strategies and Safe Pass restrictions, calling for policies to address vaccinated people who may be spreading the bug but go unnoticed due to a false sense of security or lack of rapid tests being taken routinely by unvaccinated individuals.
But a newly-formed committee on vaccinations announced officially this week has created a greater rift within the team of scientists.
Local media said the vax committee, which is headed by top health ministry officials, had decided to push for third dose vaccines in the adult population, basically individuals over 18.
Members have not been meeting regularly but simply responding to questions individually, prompting some to question whether proper discussion was taking place at the decision-making level
According to Kathimerini Cyprus, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela was prepared to propose the third dose measure during a Cabinet meeting this week.
But Kathimerini’s Apostolos Tomoras said the minister in the end did not submit the proposal, with additional reports saying Hadjipantela pulled back to avoid a rift as scientists disagreed amongst themselves as to the role they have been asked to carry out on the committee.
Another scientist on the task force, Christos Petrou, has publicly shown dissent from the third dose decision, joining Tsioutis and others who have called on the government to provide more information and focus on reevaluating their strategy based on the latest data from Cyprus.
A current policy that recommends booster shots over age 50 is strongly supported by another vocal member of the task force, Petros Karayiannis.
But Tomaras revealed on Wednesday that discussion on booster shots over the age of 18 at least six months after the second dose had been taking place at a political level.
Karayiannis, who said the epidemiological situation in Cyprus was better than other European countries, appeared on local television saying he was ready to offer advice to officials whenever they asked for it.
It was explained that committee members have not been meeting regularly but simply responding individually to questions from the health ministry, prompting other members to question whether proper discussion was taking place at the decision-making level.
But some members on the committee have been saying publicly they did not have access to all the data, while local media this week also reported on a rise of confirmed cases and an infection rate that doubled this month compared to October.
Additional reports said chains of infection were linked to weddings, christenings, the workplace, and in the family domain.
Field epidemiologist Valentinos Silvestros, who addressed the issue this week, said the nature of contact between people was more crucial than vaccination status in terms of a coronavirus infection taking place.
Health expert and medical pundit Charis Armeftis said he was concerned over the overall response to the pandemic, adding he could “not understand why data is not made public.”
“We are at a critical juncture because there is something unknown in terms of how we are going to face the coming period,” Armeftis said.