Ethiopia poised to start vaccine trials
As the whole world rushes to find a vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of African nations have expressed their willingness to conduct a vaccine test in their homeland. Some African nations, including Ethiopia, were indicated to have the capacity to produce the vaccine once approved. This was disclosed at a press conference the World Health Organization-Africa gave on Thursday, September 3, 2020.
According to Matshidiso Moeti (MD), WHO regional director for Africa, majority of African countries have expressed willingness to join WHO’s coronavirus initiative – covaxin. Through this initiative, countries will participate in the trials to test the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing the virus.
Asked if any African nation has the capacity to manufacture the vaccine, Dr. Moeti said that some African nations like Senegal, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco have the capacity to do so, while Ethiopia is enhancing its capacity.
It is to be recalled that Ethiopia had prematurely announced the discovery of an effective vaccine and treatment for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This product has now successfully passed laboratory testing and is awaiting delivery of the first batch to begin clinical trials.
According to Abraham Belay (PhD), the Minister of Innovation and Technology, the laboratory trial, which is being carried out abroad, took longer because of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We expect the delivery of the first production of the vaccine in a month and we will proceed with clinical trials,” Abraham told The Reporter.
Currently, Ethiopia does not have a grade three laboratory, which is a certified laboratory to produce sample vaccines and conduct the laboratory test, according to him. Following the laboratory test, there will be a clearance to carry out clinical trials.
Abraham also told The Reporter that all the cost for the development of the vaccine was covered by the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) but refrained from revealing the expense incurred so far. He said it will be included in a report after the development of the vaccine.
Even though the vaccine for the pandemic, which has affected 26.3 million people globally, is a highly anticipated discovery, it has not gone without its own controversies. Once, some French doctors recommended conducting the virus test in Africa because there is a similar experience of doing so for HIV/AIDS. This was highly criticized by people and leaders including the director of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom (PhD).
While asked about this and what precautions would be taken not to make Africans guinea pigs, Pontiano Kaleebu, Director of research at Uganda Research Unit, stated that there will be a strict standard to be followed to ensure that this never happens. He indicated that all the necessary precautions will be put in place, so that all the people who participate in the trials are willing to do so.
So far, the coronavirus has infected more than 55, 213 Ethiopians from a total of 970,591 Ethiopians tested for the virus. More than 20,000 have recovered while 856 people have lost their lives to the disease.
Addis Ababa remains the epicenter of the virus while Dire Dawa, Jigjiga, Metema and Mekele take the place for top five most affected towns in Ethiopia, after Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian government placed a state of emergency limit the virus from spreading, limiting gathering of people, closing schools and higher education institutions.