Africa ought to develop its own Covid-19 vaccine

vaccine
Photo credit: Chandan Khanna | AFP

What you need to know:

  • An African-developed vaccine will ensure safety and efficacy among the population, who seem to be experiencing comparatively less morbidity and mortality to Covid-19 than the others.
  • A locally developed vaccine will instill confidence in Africans on its authenticity and quality, increasing uptake.

An effective vaccine against Covid-19 is among the best strategies to a return to normalcy.

Research into a vaccine for the coronavirus commenced immediately the first case was reported in Wuhan, China, late last year. Nearly two dozen are in clinical trials and 140 others in early stages of development. But South Africa is the only African country conducting clinical trials.

A few other African countries have institutes working on earlier stages of a vaccine. The Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) is, fortunately, one of them.

Increasing uptake

An African-developed vaccine will ensure its continuous supply and access on the continent. It will also ensure safety and efficacy among the population, who seem to be experiencing comparatively less morbidity and mortality to Covid-19 than the others.

A locally developed vaccine will instill confidence in Africans on its authenticity and quality, increasing uptake.

For quite a long time, the norm has been for Africa to import health solutions from the West — partly due to limited resources. According to the African Academy of Sciences, only two per cent of all vaccine clinical trials take place in Africa.

 To improve that, the African Union launched a consortium to bring together global vaccine developers, funders and institutions on the continent that conduct clinical trials.

Late-stage trials

 It aims to have more than 10 late-stage trials in Africa so that enough data is gathered on the safety and efficacy of vaccine candidates among Africans.

Vaccine research and production are capital-intensive; therefore, an Africa vaccine-specific fund needs to be created to strengthen and support local initiatives in Covid-19 vaccine and clinical trials.

Further, governments need to engage the academia and the private sector to enhance research and innovation that addresses Africa’s health challenges more so as to fast track Covid-19 vaccine production.

Dr Matoke-Muhia, research scientist at Kemri, is a 2020 New Voices Fellow at The Aspen Institute. [email protected]