Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that Africa will not be used as a testing ground for COVID-19 vaccines.
His comments come after two French scientists suggested that vaccine trials should take place in Africa because there is a lack of testing equipment, masks or even intensive care systems on the continent.
The scientists identified as Jean-Paul Mira, the head of the Intensive Care Unit at Cochin Hospital in Paris and Camille Locht, the research director at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research –Inserm, were speaking during a debate on local French news channel-LCI.
But the remarks triggered a lot of backlashes, the most recent coming from the head of the World Health Organisation-WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The WHO boss says that the racist comments defeat the purpose of the call of solidarity that is needed to overcome the pandemic.
Dr Tedros, an Ethiopian microbiologist, born in Eritrea added that he will not allow Africa to become the testing ground for any COVID-19 vaccine trials.
Currently, about 35 companies and academic institutions are trying to develop a vaccine. Several others are in the works to develop treatments. The biggest treatment and vaccine trial is the WHO Solidarity trial.
According to the United States National Library of Medicine, from 1991 to the end of May 2018, only about 7,192 clinical trials had been completed or were ongoing on the African continent. That’s around 2.5 percent of the global total.
Data from the Pan African Clinical Trials Registry shows that South Africa and Egypt have the highest number of trials at 2,480 and 2,270 respectively. Within East Africa, Uganda and Kenya have carried out the highest number each with 431 and 409 respectively.
According to researchers, the first COVID-19 vaccine will only available next year. The first company that is planning to start trials in September 2020 is Moderna Therapeutics, a biotech company based in Cambridge.
Globally, over one million people have been infected with the disease. Africa has the lowest number of infected countries with over 7,000 cases reported.