Yesterday, Ghana became the first country to approve the Oxford University’s Malaria Vaccine (the R21/Matrix-M vaccine) for use. This is a laudable move because no African country has ever been the first to approve a major vaccine before their rich counterparts. The vaccine is cleared by the Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority for use in children aged 5-36 months. This group is known to be at highest risk of death from malaria.
Oxford University, UK researched and developed this vaccine for 30 years! As I think about this feat, I see tact; I see resilience; I see focus; I see scholarship. And I cannot but wonder if any African country could have thought about engaging this type of all-important research long enough to court a breakthrough. Many of our countries are in the ‘Malaria zone’ of the world. Another Institution that is in a ‘Malaria-free zone’ is more concerned for our health than our own Institutions. Or so it seems!
What are African Institutions doing with their scientific knowledge and skills? What is the level of our commitment to the issues that concern our own health? How long must we continue to look to the West and other countries for help? Most of Malaria deaths occur in Africa. And African institutions and scientists sit as if this is a light matter!
I am sure that everyone would point to infrastructural decay and lack of funding as the reason for the ineptness that we see in our institutions. But we generate revenue at our institutions and receive government funding at some too. But we have wealthy citizens who may fund valuable research. Even the Ghana R21/Matrix-M vaccine approval that we are hailing is still fraught with questions about how to attract external funding to make the vaccine accessible to many. We need African governments to up their commitments to catalysing a healthier continent.
Wake up, Africa. Rescue your people instead of waiting for someone else to do that for you. That is how to be an effective continent.