Zim scientist in Covid-19  vaccine breakthrough Dr Tatenda Shopera

Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
A US-BASED Zimbabwe-born scientist Dr Tatenda Shopera has made history by being part of a team that developed the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine.

Dr Tatenda is a senior scientist (bioprocess research and development) at Pfizer Inc, an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation, which is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. He was part of the team that delivered the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Globally, Covid-19 has claimed more than 1,6 million lives and left more than 70 million people infected. The United States is the worst affected country in the world with more than 300 000 deaths and nearly 17 million confirmed cases.

As of Tuesday, Zimbabwe had recorded 11 522 confirmed cases, 9 599 recoveries and 310 deaths. The Covid-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on March 11, 2020.

Last month, Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech announced that their two-dose vaccine had an efficacy rate of 95 percent after two doses administered three weeks apart.

According to the US media, the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech provides strong protection against Covid-19 within about 10 days of the first dose. This is according to documents published on Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before a meeting of its vaccine advisory group.

On December 11, FDA authorised the emergence use of the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine. The Covid vaccine hasn’t yet been tested on pregnant people.

Posting on his LinkedIn, Dr Shopera said he was proud to have been part of the team that delivered the Covid-19 vaccine.

“I am very proud to have been part of the team that delivered the vaccine and this will be talked about for generations to come,” he posted.

Born in a remote area of Masvingo, Dr Shopera grew up in Harare’s Mbare suburb during the pre-independence era.
He did both his Ordinary and Advanced Levels at Harare High school. He majored in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Accounting at Advanced Level and he passed with excellent grades.

Dr Shopera had a difficult upbringing in his early childhood life,
“I grew up in the dusty streets of Harare (Zimbabwe) and one thing that was apparent then was I wanted to make an impact before I leave this place we call earth. I have always believed that life is not just about an individual but the impact an individual has on the community, that’s what makes life worth living,” he said.

“Today I am so proud not only of being part of Pfizer, but also for being part of the team that delivered this great Christmas present to the world. I am so proud that I am able to make an impact at a global scale.”

Dr Shopera holds a PhD in Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering from Washington University in St Louis and a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the same university.

Between 2009-2012 he studied BSc in Chemical Engineering at Jacobs University Bremen.

Previous studies have found that the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine gives the immune system a major, long-term boost, an effect seen in many other vaccines.

Pfizer and BioNTech began a large-scale clinical trial in July, recruiting 44 000 people in the United States, Brazil and Argentina. Half of the volunteers got the vaccine, and half got the placebo.

Despite the early protection afforded by the first dose, it’s unclear how long that protection would last on its own, underscoring the importance of the second dose. — @mashnets

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