Uganda is set to start human trials of the Covid-19 vaccine starting November as the country continues the fight against the pandemic, Ministry of Health officials have said.
According to the officials, the vaccine called, Self Replicating RNA, which has been made through a research conducted through a partnership between Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and Imperial College in the UK, will undergo three different steps before it is recommended for general public use.
Dr Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, said the people involved in the research are in the final stages of bringing the vaccine to Uganda for further trials before it is adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“I am waiting for a paper from UVRI and other research bodies in the country that have been put in place to give me the latest details, but what I know is by November, the vaccine shall be in the country ready for testing,” Dr Atwine said in an interview at the weekend.
Recently, President Museveni formed the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE) headed by Dr Monica Musenero to bolster research on Covid-19.
How trial will be conducted
Dr Musenero told Daily Monitor that the first trial will be conducted on 10 Ugandans to see how they respond to the vaccine and its possible side effects on the human body. If it is all successful, the other stage of the trial will be done on about 100 to 200 people before the final stage of a random clinical trial of between 1,000 and 3,000 people.
“There are many steps to carry out this kind of research and possible approval of a vaccine. The vaccine has undergone the animal trial and now the next phase is a human trial for which volunteers will have to offer themselves to be tested,” she explained. “This will be in three phases and the final phase is expected to take place in June next year. If the trial is done successfully, we can roll on the mass use by end of June next year,” Dr Musenero added.
She revealed yesterday that for the vaccine project, Uganda will contribute about Shs800m while the rest, which is the biggest part of the budget, is being met by the UK university.
“On our part, we shall be buying some equipment, which will cost Shs617m and the operation costs of Shs195m. The rest of the project has already been funded by the university in charge,” Dr Musenero said.
Other local bodies working on different research projects for Covid-19 include; UVRI led by Prof Pontiano Kalebu, Makerere University Medical School department led by Dr Misaki Wayengera and Makerere University School of Public Health headed by Prof William Bazeyo.
Dr Wayengera, who is heading the project of developing the rapid test kits, said his entire budget is being funded by government, the French Embassy, the Uganda Bankers Association, and other individuals.
“There are problems of funding these projects but there is concerted effort by government and other private institutions. If all goes well, we shall have a product at least by March next year,” he said.
As of yesterday, Uganda had recorded 7,530 Covid-19 cases and 73 deaths. Recoveries stand at 3,647.
Dr Musenero said when a vaccine/drug is developed, it has to go through the initial animal trial where different species close to humans are introduced to it and observed on how they react.
The vaccine is then taken to the laboratory for the human trial, which is supposed to be three different stages, before it is taken to the National Drug Authority (NDA) for certification. NDA then recommends the medicine to WHO, which also assesses it before it is taken to the factory for manufacture.