By Mary Hearty
In an effort to ensure impartial apportionment of COVID-19 tools and vaccines, World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
This initiative aims to deliver equally 2 billion vaccines globally for high-risk populations, including 1 billion for low and middle-income countries.
ACT Accelerator is expected to help expedite the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
Besides, it could unite leaders of government, global health organizations, civil society groups, businesses and philanthropies to form a plan for a fair response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among these partners include Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI).
“It is clear that as the international community comes together to develop safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19, equity must be a central focus of these efforts,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said during a virtual conference.
“Too often, African countries end up at the back of the queue for new technologies, including vaccines. These life-saving products must be available to everyone, not only those who can afford to pay.”
African Union also supports the need for Africa to develop a framework to actively engage in the development and access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG) also emphasized 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.
According to previous analysis, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to overshadow immunization in the African Region. As a result, millions of African children would doubtlessly suffer.
At the moment, there are almost 150 COVID-19 vaccine candidates globally. Specifically, 19 are in clinical trials.
South Africa being the first country in Africa to start a clinical trial with the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The vaccine was developed by the Oxford Jenner Institute in United Kingdom.
The Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial is likely to involve 2000 volunteers aged 18–65 years. Moreover, some people living with HIV are included too.
The vaccine is already undergoing trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil with thousands of participants.
According to the African Academy of Sciences, only 2 percent of clinical trials conducted worldwide occur in Africa. It is important to test the COVID-19 vaccine in countries where it is needed to ensure that it will be effective.
Dr Moeti encourages more countries in the region to join the trials so that the contexts and immune response of population in Africa are factored into studies.
“Africa has the scientific expertise to contribute widely to the search for an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Indeed, our researchers have helped develop vaccines which provide protection against communicable diseases such as meningitis, Ebola, yellow fever and a number of other common health threats in the region,” explained Dr Moeti.