Nairobi — Kenyans have been urged to embrace clinical trials, including on the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure vaccine produced fit their needs.
Jennifer Maroa Mabuka, who is a Programme Consultant with Clinical Trials Community sad it is only through clinical trials that the world can get a vaccine with a better efficacy.
In October last year, Kenya joined the global efforts in search of an effective vaccine for COVID-19, with the start of a trial evaluating the AstraZeneca.
« It is important that we participate because that is the only way we will know whether the vaccine we are buying will work or not, » she said during an interview with Capital FM News.
The trial is hosted at KEMRI at its Kilifi-based KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, under a longstanding collaboration between the research institute, the University of Oxford and the Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom.
In the Oxford trials, at least 40 frontline health care workers within Kilifi took part.
Once the vaccine safety is confirmed, a further 360 volunteers were set to be recruited with possible expansion of the trial to Mombasa County.
« I do not know what will come out of the trials but possibly the results will match what has been said previously and probably not just because we are genetically different but also because there are new variants of the virus, and as a result, they might respond differently, » she said.
« Our (Africans) genetic composition has the most diverse in terms of the genes that we portray, compared to the people in the North. That means when the tests are done in the North, whatever they (researchers) see and the way the body responds, it is going to be completely different from how we respond, » she said.
The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa has since emphasized the need to educate the public on the process of clinical trials on various drugs and vaccines like AstraZeneca which has been received with skepticism by several Kenyans.
The concerns arose following reports from countries, mainly in Europe, where some patients developed blood clots after getting the AstraZeneca jab. Deaths were also reported prompting some of the countries to suspend the jab. South Africa stopped its use when it failed to work.
The organization’s Community Public Engagement Manager Lilian Mutengu said this will further boost their confidence in the use of various products.
« If people do not understand what is happening, whether a product is good and effective, it will not have real life impact because people will not appreciate it, people will not take it up, » she said.
She called on the government and other research organisations to prioritise public engagement and sensitization to ensure the clinical trials are acceptable.
Mutengu said there is need for community and public management in such trials.
« If you have people understand the research process, right from the beginning to the end, not just because you need them to participate in clinical trials, but because you want to improve their research literacy, that will go along way in ensuring science actually takes root in our society. A lot of economies have grown due to research and science. »