Deadly omission: leaving Africa out of virus trials needs to ...

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Deadly omission: leaving Africa out of virus trials needs to stop urgently

More clinical trials in Africa can help ensure vaccines or treatments cater to the continent’s genetic diversity

Jenniffer Mabuka-Maro

The World Health Organisation (WHO), in its quest to find efficacious therapies to treat Covid-19, plans to conduct a multi-arm, multi-country clinical trial. The trials have yet to begin, but 10 countries have already signed up. Only one of them, SA, is on the African continent. 

Of course, the WHO isn’t the only organisation trying to find treatments or even a vaccine for Covid-19. The United States National Institutes of Health maintains an online platform that lists all registered, ongoing clinical trials globally. On March 26 2020, a quick search of the platform using the term “coronavirus” revealed 157 ongoing trials; 87 of these involve either a drug or a vaccine, while the rest are behavioural studies. Only three are registered in Africa – all of them in Egypt.

This low representation of African countries in clinical trials is not unusual. Poor visibility of existing sites, limited infrastructure and unpredictable clinical trial regulatory timelines are some of the key issues hindering investments in this area...

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