CAPE TOWN – Scientists in Nigeria have developed a new vaccine candidate which they say is optimized for the African population; ensuring that Africa plays a more significant role in the race for the Covid-19 vaccine.
Africa has been trailing behind the rest of the world when it comes to homegrown vaccines.
This, in turn, has made other African scientists worry that vaccines developed in the West were not taking into account the local context of Africa.
“Africans must find their own solutions to their problems. We must show our independence. It’s a big motivation for this,” said Ibrahima Gueye, a professor at the Polytechnic School of Thies in Senegal.
It is reported that Nigerian vaccine candidate was developed by professor Christian Happi, a molecular biologist and genomicist, with his research team at the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in Nigeria.
The ACEGID is a World Health Organization and Africa CDC Reference Laboratory for genomic research in Africa. The commencement of the human trial is apparently being delayed due to a lack of funds.
“We were able to identify a neutralizing antibody that could knock down up to 90% of the viruses. The genetic makeup or the genetic diversity of the African population has been demonstrated to affect the efficacy of several vaccines that have been developed because the vaccine also depends on who is receiving it and how the body responds to it, “said Happi.
However, globally, a much bigger concern is getting the trials to reflect the populations that they aim to protect. Lack of sufficient black representation in the testing groups could lead to vaccines being delayed until enough people come forward.
According to Dr Jim Kublin, in the US, more than half of Covid-19 cases to date are among Blacks and Hispanic of the Covid-19 Prevention Network in the US, only about one in ten volunteers for clinical trials there are drawn from those groups.
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