Scientists from the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) are in advanced stages of developing a vaccine for the prevention of Covid-19.
Accompanied by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Monicah Musenero, UVRI scientists said that they are yet to kick start clinical trials on animals, a process that precedes testing of the vaccine on human beings.
“We have reached at the level where we have the product showing us that the virus can be inactivated without affecting our health,” Dr Jennifer Serwanga, Assistant Director UVRI said.
The Minister and her team made these revelations while appearing before the Committee on Presidential Affairs chaired by Hon Jesca Ababiku.
Serwanga added that, ‘the next stage is purification to remove all chemicals and lead to animal trials then we move to human trials’.
She said that the process that started in 2021 has drawn scientists from different organisations and assured legislators that the vaccine once manufactured will be of good quality.
Serwanga said that the process has however, faced challenges and delays accruing from restrictions on the sale of reagents and equipment used in the manufacture of vaccines to African markets.
“Some of the equipment used in the manufacture of vaccines cannot be sold to the African market so we had to partner with other organizations,” she added.
Musenero said her ministry is looking at vaccines for both for health and economic purposes.
She noted that Uganda has for instance spent about Shs 1trillion in buying covid-19 vaccines, an expenditure she said will be avoided once the vaccines are available locally.
“Every time we have an epidemic, we spend a lot of money; now we are saying yes the diseases are here but we can also use them as a source of money.This will be one of the biggest sources of income for the country?” she said
Upon a request by Ababiku on the amount spent on the development of Covid-19 vaccines, Musenero said her ministry has so far received over shs5.7 billion.
Aringa county MP, Hon Siraji Brahan Ezama asked whether the vaccine development takes into consideration the fact that the Covid-19 virus mutates and presents with different symptoms and effects.
“Now that the virus keeps changing into different strains, are we going to make the vaccine that can cope with those changes?” Ezama asked.
MPs wondered what the fate of the locally made Covid herbal medicine also known as Covidex was, saying that government has since gone silent on its efficacy.
Musenero reiterated that Ministry of Health is in the process of studying the effectiveness of Covidex saying that, ‘at the moment, no one says this drug cures this disease or doesn’t’.
MPs urged Musenero to open up to individual scientists and condemned what they termed as a bad culture of favouring only those with ‘god fathers’.
“We want a clear strategy on how individual scientists can be helped because we have a bad culture where only those with ‘god fathers’ are helped,” Ababiku said