AFRICA – The African Union Commission has launched the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Consortium for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial – CONCVACT, to bring together global vaccine developers, funders, and African organizations that conduct clinical trials.

AU said it is meant to ensure that over 10 late-stage trials for COVID-19 vaccines are conducted in Africa, so that enough data is gathered on the safety and efficacy of vaccine candidates among African populations.

It revealed that the consortium is part of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy, for tackling Covid-19, with goals to prevent severe Covid-19 illness and deaths in member states, reduce social disruption, and minimise the economic consequences of the pandemic.

The consortium members include the World Health Organisation, Africa Academy of Sciences’ Clinical Trials Community, Institut Pasteur, African Vaccine Regulatory Forum, AUDA-NEPAD, and the African Medicines Agency.

“The African initiative to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus is welcomed and encouraged. Through this initiative, Africa will be at the forefront as the world seeks to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Prof Moustafa Mijiyawa, Chairman of the Africa CDC governing board and minister of Health of Togo.

AU noted that a vaccine remains one of the greatest chances available for countries to return to normalcy following widespread disruptions of societies by COVID-19.

According to the WHO, there are nearly 150 COVID-19 vaccine candidates and 19 of those are in clinical trials.

It however, said at the moment, only one clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate is being carried out in sub-Saharan Africa – South Africa.

On the importance of having a viable vaccine developed in Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said “We can expect this virus to continue circulating until a vaccine is made available to people in the world and to people in Africa.”

Referencing the African Academy of Sciences report that only 2 per cent of clinical trials globally, for all types of vaccines is taking place in African nations, Moeti said the situation is problematic because people of different ethnic backgrounds could react to a vaccine differently.

She then stressed the need to have localized trials as it ensures that vaccines are effective and safe.

“It’s important that this product has the opportunity to be tried out in African people. Then we can get the most relevant information about how it behaves, its efficacy, and how people in Africa react to this product. That is why it’s extremely important to carry out clinical trials,” she said.

Moeti further said having localised trials can as well help to expand access to future vaccines for people on the continent, noting that one of the ethical principles of vaccine trials is that those who participate should have access to the vaccine when it becomes available.

South Africa President, Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated that collaboration is needed to provide access to vaccines for all Africans.

“Success in developing and providing access to a safe vaccine requires an innovative and collaborative approach, with significant local manufacturing in Africa.

“We need to support the contribution of African scientists and healthcare professionals. We need to act with urgency,” Ramaphosa said.

CONCVACT plans to capture more than ten late-stage vaccine trials at the earliest, via collaborations with global vaccine developers, sponsors, and African businesses that enable clinical studies.

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