African countries should participate in the manufacturing and vaccine clinical trials to stop perpetual myths against western countries for allegedly using Africans as guinea pigs.
Prof. Walter Jaoko, the Director Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI), Institute of Clinical Research, sounded the call to Africa pointing out that he was against hoarding of vaccines, including those against Covid-19 that has caused mayhem globally. Prof. Jaoko said this was immoral and unjust to the African countries.
“It was high time we established a regional block like EAC, ECOWAS, SADC among others from where vaccine manufacturing and trials can be done,” he explained.
The Don observed that this way, countries in the respective regions could leverage on each other’s strength to establish such centers, which required colossal resources, thus rendering them to have minimal contribution or determine to an extent what goes on elsewhere in the global arena.
He stated that such regional manufacturing and vaccine testing centers could make dealing with diseases such as whooping cough, polio, measles and Covid-19 or any other future pandemic much easier to handle in a more coordinated manner.
Speaking during a webinar: Africa Science Media Center (AfriSMC) press briefing, Prof. Jaoko said that so far, 2.1 billion doses of Covid-19 have been given out globally by last week including Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, Sinovac and Covexin.
He singled out Tanzania, North Korea, Haiti, Chad and Eritrea but pointed out that there was unfair distribution of the vaccines with the United States, Canada and UK having the highest doses of the vaccines.
“As a result of this poor distribution, some of the countries above have up to 15 pc of their population already vaccinated against various variants of the Covid 19. On the other hand, Africa as a whole has less than 2 pc of its entire population having received the jab”, he explained.
However, he added, Seychelles is leading the continent having vaccinated 70 per cent of its population using the multiple vaccines as opposed to sticking to one type, depending on what was readily available in the market at the time.
Not all has been lost in Africa, considering that Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa have also been mentioned as the better countries in terms of those vaccinated against Covid-19 but the numbers are still very low.
“To fully get protected from Covid-19, the public should know that this kicks off two weeks after one gets the second dose of the vaccine. In Germany, UK and France there is no further use of face masks as hotels, cinema halls, theatres are now open”, he stated.
Prof. Jaoko told participants that when the Covid-19 viruses multiply, then if you have several mutations you end up with a variant of Covid-19 which may be a little bit more difficult to manage.
“Consequently, this leads to more infections and types of variants,” he said.
However, he added, as the world continues to fight the deadly Coronavirus, the emergence of new variants of the SARS- CoV-2 there are only 4 variants of the Covid 19 including (B.1.1.7) –UK, (B.1.351) –South Africa which form part of the four variants of concern which have been labeled with the first Greek letters– Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.
The Don cautioned that vaccines are a critical tool against Covid 19 and so if we hope to go back to normal life then the global community must act in a more coordinated manner, without leaving any country behind in terms of fighting the pandemic and others like it in future.
By Joseph Ouma