MONICA KAYOMBO, Lusaka
CENTRE for Family Health Research in Zambia (CFHRZ), formerly ZEHRP director, William Kilembe, has disclosed that Zambia is among the seven countries in Eastern and Southern Africa taking part in the COVID-19 Moderna studies dubbed “Ubuntu”. Speaking during a recent virtual meeting with media personnel organised by the Media Science Café in Zambia, Dr Kilembe said the study is aimed at establishing whether adults with underlying health conditions have an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness. “Examples of such conditions include pregnancy, diabetes, heart or kidney diseases, HIV and cancers,’’ Dr Kilembe said. Dr Kilembe said the research wants to learn how many doses of vaccine are needed for good protection against COVID-19 for adults living with HIV or having another condition that might put them at high risk of severe COVID-19. He said the trial would also like to establish how many doses of vaccines are needed for people who previously had COVID-19 infection to obtain protection. Dr Kilembe said Moderna vaccine has received full approval in the United States of America, where over 2,000 million doses have been administered to people. “Over 150 million doses have been given to people in Europe under conditional marketing authorisation. The vaccine is also approved by the World Health Organisation,’’ he said.
Speaking during the same meeting, Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC) programmes manager Clever Chilende has called for increased domestic resources meant for clinical trials on COVID-19 and others as opposed to the current situation, where most of the research is supported by foreigners. Mr Chilembi said Zambia needs to come up with the initiative to raise funds and own some research and clinical trials. He called on CFHRZ and other researchers to engage Community Based Organisations (CBO) in their research from the onset as they undertake their trials. “I feel that there is need for civil society organisations and other key actors to come on board to bridge knowledge gap between the researchers and the communities. I feel research literacy should be scaled up to community level,’’ he said. And media practitioner and science journalist Stanslous Ngosa encouraged researchers to actively engage journalists during the clinical trials to avoid any inappropriate reports due to lack of understanding. Mr Ngosa said if the science scribes are equipped with the right information from the word go, they will be more effective. “Communication is a two-way thing, this is as opposed to giving them statements. It will be very difficult to buy into the idea if you are not engaged from the onset,’’ Mr Ngosa said.
The Ubuntu study is a multi-center trial comparing different regiments of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine and the study also known as CoVPN 3008 hopes to enroll 15,000 people from Eastern and Southern Africa. The last enrollment will take place in July this year and will last for 18 months. CLICK TO READ MORE