It Takes About UGX3.7 Trillion, 7 Years To Develop COVID-19 Vaccine

It Takes About UGX3.7 Trillion, 7 Years To Develop COVID-19 Vaccine

By Samuel Opio

Did you know that manufacturing a vaccine that could be
widely and safely used by human beings of different genetic makeups could cost
nearly one billion dollars which translates to nearly UGX 3.7 trillion and at
least seven years of trials before it is commercially viable?

This revelation by Dr. Bernhards Ogutu of the Kenya Medical
Research Institute (KEMRI) puts into perspective the sheer cost of trying
to manufacture a vaccine and why many vaccines come into the market as a result
of collaboration between donors and governments. (Canadian pharmacy)

Even though Kenya has had a long history of vaccine use, one
thing that never changes is the hesitance and distrust towards these medicines.

Kenyan scientists in collaboration with foreign
organizations have been at the forefront of clinical studies for various
vaccines since the 1990’s. During that period clinical studies on vaccines for
Malaria, HIV/AIDS, Polio, Ebola and Pneumonia, have been carried out in Kenya
through KEMRI and for some volunteer vaccine trials have been carried out.

Dr. Ogutu has been involved in the Malaria vaccine roll-out
which is currently being administered to eligible children in eight counties in
a phased manner. The clinical testing was done in Kenya before Kenyan
authorities approved the use of the vaccine.

“The roll-out is going very well. We are pleased with the results so far,” says Dr. Ogutu as quoted by the Citizen.

He outlines the benefits for any country that gets involved
in the pilot studies or clinical trials of a virus.

“It gives greater bargaining power for that country to get
the commercial virus when it is ready and you know that the vaccine will work
in your country,” he adds.

Vaccine development is a laborious and lengthy process that
few countries can manage on their own. On the African continent, only South
Africa, Senegal, Egypt, Morocco and Ethiopia manufacture vaccines and when it
comes to developing a vaccine from scratch, the process could take at least 7
years with a price tag of Ugx3.7 trillion.

“It is a long process with so much to work on and without
collaboration then this will not be possible,” adds Dr. Ogutu.

Kenyan scientists are involved in global studies on vaccines
for several diseases and according to Dr. Bernhards Ogutu, from time to time
they get requests to study the data of a particular vaccine in trial.

So should a Kenyan scientist receive a request to study the
data on a potential Covid-19 vaccine, then the first step will be to study that
data in collaboration with fellow scientists for verification and to give

If convinced that the vaccine is viable, the scientist can
submit the data to a scientific and ethics review committee at KEMRI that will
give recommendations.

Finally if the vaccine’s data faces no challenges, then the
Ministry of Health and Pharmacy and Poisons Board will form a committee of
experts to probe the data further. Only after those three stages of approval
can a Kenyan scientist begin to advertise or recruit volunteers for the study.

“So it is not a foreigner that will come to test our people.
Rather we are the ones who collaborate with others to seek solutions to
problems that challenge our people. They come to us because we have the local
capacity to assess the vaccines. I am currently receiving requests to check
data for a Covid-19 vaccine and we are giving feedback,” says Dr. Ogutu.

Prof. Omu Anzala, a virologist and immunologist at the
University of Nairobi, has been involved in the search for an elusive vaccine
for HIV/AIDS for the last 20 years in conjunction with the University of Oxford
and he is quick to counter the widely-held perception that African volunteers
are guinea pigs for foreign vaccine manufacturers.

“Trials were not carried out in Kenya since before 2011.
Tests started recently and are done in a structured manner,” says Prof. Anzala.

He walks us through the four stages of human vaccine trials
that the Covid-19 vaccine could be subjected to. Note that the several stages
of testing prior to this happen on animals which have immune systems similar to
human beings.

The first stage of human trials seeks to answer the question
on whether the vaccine is safe and it is carried out on 30-50 volunteers over a
one-and-half years period.

The second stage is extended safety and immune response
testing carried out on 100 – 150 volunteers over one to three-year period. The
third stage is efficacy testing which could take four to five years and involve
2000 — 5000 volunteers.

And the final stage of testing looks at the effectiveness of
production of large doses of the vaccine and the supply chain and logistics

“It is an expensive process which no government can handle
on its own. Conspiracy theories will only work against us,” adds Prof. Anzala.

He, however, admits that the vaccine sector lost some
credibility with the polio debacle where a child died in Limuru in 2015 and a
case in early 2018 where one child died and four others were paralyzed after a
measles vaccination exercise.

“These incidents have caused us challenges with lobbyists
but you have to look at the greater good,” he says.

According to the World Heatlh Organziation, Africa, which
accounts for 14% of the world’s population, only participates in 0.1% of the
world vaccine population.

Prof. Anzala believes that Kenya can rise up and become a
hub for vaccine development.

He warns that unless African countries engage in the
Covid-19 vaccine trials, then when the vaccines finally hit the market they
will not have factored in the multi-faceted African DNA and may prove useless
for Africans.

There are currently several Covid-19 vaccine development
processes happening around the world with President Uhuru Kenyatta stating that
Kenyans will not be used as guinea pigs for vaccine tests but will instead
focus on a global vaccine effort that KEMRI and other African organizations are
a part of.

Kenyatta made the remarks after BBC’s Medical
Correspondent Fergus Walsh said during an interview that a team of scientists
from Oxford University were working on a coronavirus vaccine which will be
tried in Kenya if they don’t get early quick results in the U.K. an accessible web community

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