The African Union Commission has launched a new initiative, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Consortium for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial (CONCVACT).
CONCVACT is an outcome of the virtual conference on Africa's Leadership Role in COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access held on 24-25 June 2020.
The conference was hosted by Africa CDC and presided over by the Chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat.
In a virtual launch, monitored by the Ghana News Agency, President Cyril Ramaphosa said "Success in developing and providing access to a safe vaccine requires an innovative and collaborative approach, with significant local manufacturing in Africa. We need to support the contribution of African scientists and healthcare professionals. We need to act with urgency".
CONCVACT is being implemented as part of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 endorsed by African Ministers of Health on 22 February 2020 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and approved by the Bureau of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government on 26 March 2020.
It is driven by the principles of cooperation, coordination, collaboration and communication, the strategy aims to prevent severe illness and deaths due to COVID-19 infection in African Union Member States, minimize social disruption, and mitigate the economic consequences of COVID-19.
Rolling out a vaccine in Africa is key to achieving all the three pillars of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19: limiting transmission, preventing deaths and laying the foundation for socio-economic recovery that should bring Africa's integration agenda back on track.
"It is important for academics, researchers and the private sector to work together and use all available platforms for the development of COVID-19 vaccine, which will enable Africa to regain momentum for achieving the goals of the continental integration agenda" said Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Mrs Amira Elfadil Mohammed, Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union Commission said "there is an urgent need for global solidarity, cooperation, and appropriate regulation to ensure equitable access to potential COVID-19 vaccine. The African Union will continue to partner with GAVI, WHO and other relevant stakeholders in the development of COVID-19 vaccine."
CONCVACT would be co-chaired by Dr Salim Abdool Karim, Head of the Ministerial Advisory Committee for COVID-19 in South Africa; Dr Samba Sow, Director-General, Centre for Vaccine Development of Mali; and Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC.
Other members of the consortium would include representatives of key organisations supporting clinical trials on the continent, including the WHO, The Africa Academy of Sciences' Clinical Trials Community, Institute Pasteur, African Vaccine Regulatory Forum, African Medicines Agency, NEPAD, and others.
Prof Moustafa Mijiyawa, Chair of the Africa CDC Governing Board and Minister of Health of Togo, said, "The African initiative to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus is welcome and should be encouraged. Through this initiative, Africa will be at the forefront as the world seeks to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic."
Africa CDC would embark on a multi-stakeholder partnerships drive to advance CONCVACT and other subsidiary initiatives, to ensure broad endorsement and support across Africa, by institutions and the African people.
"Africa must play an active role in securing an effective vaccine against COVID-19. This is about our future and our development," said Dr John Nkengasong.
CONCVACT aims to secure more than 10 late stage vaccine clinical trials as early as possible on the continent by bringing together global vaccine developers and funders, as well as African organizations that facilitate clinical trials. The goal is to ensure that sufficient data is generated on the safety and efficacy of the most promising vaccine candidates for the African population so they can be confidently rolled out in Africa once vaccines are approved.
CONCVACT would focus on dismantling the most critical barriers to clinical trials by: establishing partnerships with leading vaccine developers to host select late-stage trial sites in Africa; identify countries and regions where opportunities to conduct trials are most promising (e.g. availability of strong local trial sponsors, good clinical practice investigators, access to granular epidemiologic data, support from regulatory bodies).
Setting up an independent review board to provide guidance, assistance and oversight to clinical trials and engage with African and global media and key opinion leaders on the continent to increase public awareness of the need and importance of hosting well-regulated clinical trials in Africa.
Providing objective, fact-based scientific guidance for interpreting the results of clinical trial data and engaging global donors that are interested in investing in scaling-up vaccine distribution in Africa to raise sufficient funds to support the trials.