Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania get funds for HIV vaccine development

Wednesday October 18 2023

Hypothetical HIV vaccine with a syringe. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are among the eight countries who have received money from the United States Agency for International Aid (USAid) to the tune of $45m to research and develop an HIV/Aids vaccine, amidst funding gaps in drug and vaccine development that have forced African countries to rely on medicinal donor supplies.

Other countries that received the funding include Zambia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

“Our aim is to find a vaccine that prevents HIV infections with an efficacy of 60 or 80 percent,” said Dr Cissy Kityo, Uganda's Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC) executive director.

Read: Uganda to make HIV, Malaria kits

The project will continue for the next five years as the involved nations pool knowledge and technologies to advance vaccine development.

UNAids has set a goal of ending HIV by 2030, but there are disparities in aras where progress is being made, and they strongly align within countries and regions that have invested heavily, such as South Africa, where HIV infections dropped by 57 percent in 2010, as indicated in its outlined roadmap of investment in July 2023.


Africa faces a big task in producing vaccines. Big pharmaceutical companies have been restrictive regarding patent rights, intellectual property, and the prices of drugs and vaccines due to their sophisticated technology, whereas this is not the case for the manufacturers on the African continent.

According to the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information (Seatini), a regional think tank, provisions that protect pharmaceutical companies' intellectual property rights and trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (Trips) frequently go beyond the protections offered by the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Trips agreement.

“IP agreements in Free Trade Agreements (FTA) like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Kenya-UK agreements, FTA, and Ghana-UK FTA should be reviewed to provide more flexibility on patent protection and promote local production of generic vaccines in Africa," said Jane Nalunga, the Executive Director of Seatini.

She says locally produced Covidex vaccine, which was desperately needed at the height of the deadly Covid-19 virus, which did not receive WHO approval, which increased reliance on delayed imported vaccines even though the country had the capacity to produce and distribute its vaccine to the general public.

Read: Uganda approves herbal drug to treat viral infections

“Although a number of frameworks, including the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa and Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM), among others, have been developed to curb over-reliance on imports by promoting local pharmaceuticals, their effects have been largely limited,” she said.

Uganda’s Science and Technology Minister Dr Monica Musenero said African countries are expected to meet the same international healthcare standards as developed countries, despite vast disparities in resources and capacity.