Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Researches for COVID-19 vaccines are very risky, Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) Executive Director Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu has warned saying while funders inject in lots of cash, they can’t guarantee that they will have a product at the end of the study.
This follows a meeting in which scientists and African leaders discussed the status of pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent and the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public health security.
Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1 percent of its routine vaccines with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. And with COVID-19 vaccines now, the region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2 percent of the world’s vaccination against COVID-19 has taken place in Africa.
But Kaleebu told URN that UVRI is in the early stages of working on a Messenger RNA vaccine for COVID-19. However, their biggest challenge is having to rely on foreign funding. He said that with previous diseases and scientific research, they have largely been receiving funding to study epidemiology and social science side of medicines which may not be very relevant, and has in the end affected Africa’s access to vital medicines.
Solomon Quaynor, the Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization at the African Development Bank told the Africa vaccine manufacturing conference on Tuesday that immense investment is required for Africa to change this grim picture. “Vaccine manufacturing, because of its complexity is not really an entrepreneurial drive but actually an institutional drive,” he said.
But Kaleebu differs saying scientists need a different mix of funding mechanisms involving both donors, governments and the private sector in order to make some strides. He for instance said the vaccine study currently happening in Uganda is entirely funded by the government, yet involving the private sector would even make work faster.
He calls for governments to give private sectors incentives that can lure them into participating in scientific research.