African health experts urge vaccine research to boost COVID-19 response

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NAIROBI, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Greater investment in home-grown research and development of a safe and efficacious vaccine is crucial in order to boost the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, experts said in a virtual forum in Nairobi on Monday.

Githinji Gitahi, CEO of Nairobi-based international health advocacy group, Amref Health Africa said the continent's ability to defeat the pandemic hinges on domestic financing toward the development of effective vaccine candidates.

He urged African governments to increase the budget earmarked for COVID-19 vaccine research even as they negotiate with foreign pharmaceutical companies for patents to facilitate local production of the essential life-saving commodity.

Among issues discussed by health experts who spoke at the virtual forum organized by Amref Health Africa included solving COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy that is rampant in the continent amid misinformation.

Joachim Osur, vice chancellor of Amref International University said that vaccine hesitancy that is rife among women, youth and community health workers poses a threat to Africa's quest to flatten the curve.

He cited a recent study conducted in Kenya which revealed that vaccine hesitancy among youth aged 18 to 24 years stood at 58 percent while 19 percent of community health workers were reluctant to take the jab.

Osur said that Africa's COVID-19 vaccine research agenda should prioritize community engagement in order to boost its uptake among high-risk groups including the elderly and chronically ill.

Jesca Nsungwa-Sabiiti, commissioner, Department of Reproductive and Child Health at Uganda's Ministry of Health said vaccine research coupled with infrastructure upgrade, data collection and public awareness is key to ensure the goal of inoculating a critical mass of Africa's populace was achieved. Enditem

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