Africa’s role in the development of Covid-19 vaccines will come under scrutiny next week at a forum to be hosted by Cornell University’s Alliance for Science programme. 

The online forum which will begin at 1pm GMT on Thursday 23rd September 2020 is under the theme; “COVID vaccine: What’s at stake for Africa?”, will among others, explore the continent’s participation in the global vaccine process.

There currently exists no approved cure nor vaccines for the Covid-19 disease.

As at end of August 2020, 176 vaccines are under development all over the world by research institutions, universities, government agencies and pharmaceutical companies according to the World Health Organization.

None of these vaccines is being developed in Africa, a situation attributed mainly to lack of investment in health infrastructure and research generally over the years.

The closest Africa has gotten to working on any Covid-19 vaccine is the trials currently ongoing to test their safety and efficacy in South Africa. How to turn around the situation and make Africa a potential developer of key vaccines is one of the issues that will be explored during the forum. 

Experts including Prof. Shabir A. Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg who is currently leading Africa’s first Phase III clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines in South Africa will lead the discussion. 

Dr. Michael Owusu, a clinical microbiologist and a lecturer at the Department of Medical Diagnostics at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, as well as a researcher with the Kumasi Center for Collaborative Research will also be on the panel. 

Prof. Omu Anzala, professor of virology andimmunology and lead research scientist at Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative at the Institute of Clinical Research, University of Nairobi, Kenya is the third panelist. 

Dr. Mercy Korir, one of Africa’s pioneering medical journalists and lead group editor – health and science with The Standard Media Group in Kenya, will moderate the panel discussion. 

The webinar will feature a science-based discussion of the critical issues surrounding COVID-19 vaccine development in Africa, including the current status and safety of clinical trials of vaccines and who is involved in the clinical trials and why.

It will also examine how vaccines are developed and distributed; the policy and regulatory requirements for development, registration, access and use of vaccines; the safety and efficacy of vaccines; the role of public sentiment in accepting or rejecting a COVID-19 vaccine; and political will and its impact on vaccine access on the continent.

Additional topics for discussion will include other measures for controlling the pandemic on the continent and the potential role of a COVID-19 vaccine in those efforts; the status of Africa’s efforts to move into vaccine development; and Africa’s roles and responsibilities within the context of the global response to COVID-19. 

“We are co-hosting this webinar to provide critical and factual insight into Africa’s role in the global efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, including the scientific, regulatory and political perspectives, in order to improve public awareness, understanding and perceptions on the continent,” said Otula Owuor, a renowned science journalist and founding editor of the ScienceAfrica magazine. ScienceAfrica magazine in Kenya is co-hosting the event. 

“We’re looking forward to a robust and civil discussion on a topic that is central to Africa during this global pandemic,” Owuor said.

“We urge journalists and all stakeholders to register and take advantage of this opportunity to engage the continent’s leading biomedical experts.”

You could participate in the webinar by logging on to https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/alliance-for-science-live/event/covid-vaccine-whats-at-stake-for-africa/.

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Source: JoyOnline

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