The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there are 19 potential COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials globally.
WHO Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, disclosed this on its official Twitter account @WHOAFRO.
The WHO also said that there are nearly 150 COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
“South Africa is the first country on the continent to start a clinical trial with the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg testing a vaccine developed by the Oxford Jenner Institute in the United Kingdom.
“The South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial is expected to involve 2000 volunteers aged 18 to 65 years and include some people living with HIV.
“The vaccine is already undergoing trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil with thousands of participants.
“According to the African Academy of Sciences, only two per cent of clinical trials conducted worldwide occur in Africa,” it said.
The UN health agency said it was important to test the COVID-19 vaccine in countries where it was needed to ensure that it would be effective.
“With more than 215,000 cases, South Africa accounts for 43 per cent of the continent’s total cases.
“Clinical trials must be performed according to international and national scientific and ethical standards, which include informed consent for any participant.
“I encourage more countries in the region to join these trials so that the contexts and immune response of populations in Africa are factored into studies.
“Africa has the scientific expertise to contribute widely to the search for an effective COVID-19 vaccine,’’ it said.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa , Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said: “Indeed, our researchers have helped develop vaccines.
“The vaccines have provided protection against communicable diseases such as meningitis, Ebola, yellow fever and a number of other common health threats in the region.’’
Earlier, this month WHO Africa’s principle advisory group on immunisation policies and programmes – the African Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (RITAG) – also noted the need to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 and other vaccines in the region.
“As the world focuses on finding a vaccine for COVID-19, we must ensure people do not forget that dozens of lifesaving vaccines already exist.
“These vaccines should reach children everywhere in Africa – no one can be left behind,” said Professor Helen Rees, Chair of the RITAG.
In addition, the agency stated that Initial analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immunisation in the African Region suggested that millions of African children are likely to be negatively impacted,
“They are likely to be negatively impacted as routine immunisation services and vaccination campaigns for polio, cholera, measles, yellow fever, meningitis and human papillomavirus have been disrupted.
“Despite these challenges, RITAG members also noted significant milestones and markers of progress.
“For example, there have been tremendous gains in the fight against wild poliovirus, and the African Region is expected to be officially certified free of wild poliovirus in August 2020,” it said.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo also announced the end of its 10th Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC, which was the worst in its history. An effective vaccine was a key tool in the response.
By Cecilia Ologunagba