COVID-19 Vaccine Research Trials and Tests Must Include African Partners

The work of scientists across Africa to conduct clinical trial reviews and combat Covid-19 gets little attention.

The Africa Society, like individuals, organizations and governments worldwide, joins in the call for accelerated, focused and thorough efforts to find a vaccine that is effective in preventing the Novel Corona virus (COVID-19) and a drug to treat infected patients.

We are fully aware that this virus brings unique challenges and that much remains to learn about this deadly disease that morphs quickly and can rapidly lead to death.

We call on the world's leading researchers in the United States and around the world, to ensure that African scientists and researchers, many of whom have been engaged in years of infectious disease research, and African medical practitioners, are included in the effort to isolate an effective drug and COVID-19 vaccine, and are taking an active part in the effort.

Their expertise and unique experiences relative to the African continent and African health, social, economic and cultural realities must be factored in. COVID-19 knows nor respects borders.

The search for a vaccine for any new disease is a complicated process that involves isolating and identifying a possible curative drug, vaccine trials, (usually first on animals), and then administering the drug to individuals after rigorous tests. There are reportedly hundreds of trials underway; how many include African researchers and scientists? African partners will be needed not only for their scientific knowledge, but also for their ability to engage African populations with whom they have established trust.

While the number of COVID-19 cases in African nations has not ballooned to the extent that it has in the United States, parts of Asia, Europe, and other non-African countries, the likelihood that there could be an explosion of cases in Africa exists and the time for preventive action and inclusive partnership is NOW.

The lack of adequate hospitals, medical personnel and equipment in most African countries is well documented. The economic implications of massive COVID-19 cases in Africa would undoubtedly result in catastrophic destruction on many fragile economies- witness the peril of the US and other economies after only months of social distancing and other protocols to stop the spread.

Social distancing is a practice difficult to effect in most Africa milieu under every day circumstances, and is an unfamiliar concept. Citizens of the US and other countries are complying but adjusting has not been easy. Finding an effective drug to treat, and a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is a medical and human rights imperative.

Africa Matters! African citizens matter, and African scientists, researchers and medical practitioners must be invited to work with the worldwide community as valued and respected partners in the search for a safe, effective COVID-19 drug and vaccine. The drugs and vaccines must then be administered in trials to various, not exclusive, cohorts of citizens around the world with sensitivity, equity and fairness.

Ambassador Pamela E. Bridgewater (ret.) is Board Chair of The Africa Society of The National Summit on Africa

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