Noguchi to research into COVID-19 vaccine effects on Ghanaians

The COVID-19 National Trust Fund is supporting the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) to conduct research into the effect of the COVID-19 vaccines on Ghanaians.

Titled “Comparative Assessment of Immunological Responses and Response Longevity of Different Vaccines within the Ghanaian Population”, the research seeks to establish the durability of immune responses elicited by the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines being administered to the public under the government’s national vaccination programme.

The Trust Fund is supporting the research, which is expected to be completed in 18 months, with an amount of GH¢2.2 million. An agreement was signed between the two institutions at the COVID-19 Trust Fund Secretariat at the Jubilee House in Accra yesterday.

The Administrator of the fund, Dr William Collins Asare, who signed the agreement on behalf of the chairperson of the Board of Trustees, Justice Sophia Akuffo, said although the vaccines were currently the foremost weapon against the pandemic, it was imperative to ascertain its effects on Ghanaians.

“With the current possibility that COVID-19 vaccines may be required periodically in order to remain immune to the virus, the NMIMR submitted a proposal to the trust fund seeking to conduct the research,” he added.

“The Trust Fund after in-depth review of the research proposal submitted by the institute, found it very persuasive considering the enormous benefits that the country will derive from the study”.

“With the background of NMIMR as a Centre of Excellence for cutting edge research in Ghana and the West Africa sub region, the trust fund was highly convinced that the outcome of the research will contribute effectively to the development of home-grown solutions in the combat of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

He was optimistic that the donation to NMIMR would contribute to obtaining information vital to support the health system in Ghana and inform policy makers on which vaccines the nation needed to prioritise for procurement and utilisation.

Dr Asare said the Trust Fund was privileged to support the institute to conduct the research, adding that the fund, following the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, provided reagents and other laboratory supplies which helped large scale testing of the virus in the country.

“We also worked together closely with the Noguchi Institute and the Healthcare Federation of Ghana for the development of COVID-19 Laboratory Information System (LIS) for public testing laboratories in Ghana,” he said.

The Director of NMIMR, Prof. Dorothy Yeboah Manu, said there were many brands of COVID-19 vaccines but its efficacy, especially on Ghanaians, had not been fully established. 

She said various individuals of the population had received various brands of the vaccines “but the question we are asking is, are these vaccines effective for the Ghanaian?”

She said although studies had shown that the vaccines were active, its efficacy depended on the genetics of the individual and the exposure levels. 

“The question that we want to ask is, is the Ghanaian able to respond appropriately to all these vaccines? and if they do, how long does these vaccines last?” she asked.

By Yaw Kyei

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