Western Countries Prevented African Nations From Having Their Own Vaccine

Colonial-era policies and global health gatekeepers have made it nigh-on impossible for doctors and scientists on the continent to take their vaccines to clinical trials

by Hannah Ritchie
May 13, 2021

In southwestern Nigeria’s Osun state, five hours drive from Lagos, Dr Christian Happi runs The African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), and it is here that his team of researchers have developed a DNA-based vaccine candidate against COVID-19.

Happi, a Cameroonian, is an internationally acclaimed geneticist who trained at Harvard. In 2014, he played a pivotal role in quashing an outbreak of Ebola in Nigeria, and he was the first to sequence coronavirus samples in sub-Saharan Africa, before later identifying the arrival of the so-called “South African variant” in Nigeria.

During pre-clinical evaluation and animal testing, the vaccine ACEGID developed, Happi claimed, showed 90 percent efficacy in treating multiple strains of COVID-19 circulating on the continent, but despite those results, it has not been able to secure either public or private funding to take the vaccine to human clinical trials.

“We’ve submitted proposals and we still don’t have a response,” Happi told VICE World News over the phone. “If we were able to produce a vaccine on the continent, the issue of access would have been far less overwhelming, but African countries don’t want to invest and who else is going to come in and invest?”

Africa has the lowest vaccination rate of any continent, with less than 2% of all COVID-19 vaccines administered worldwide. So far, 42 African countries have joined the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme designed to provide doses to low and middle-income nations.

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