DEADLY INFECTIOUS PATHOGENS THAT CAUSE OUTBREAKS AND EPIDEMICS ARE THREATENING UGANDA, DR MUSENERO NEEDS MORE SUPPORT THAN FIGHTS
By Goodluck Musinguzi
It’s difficult to know which pathogen will propel another pandemic to the level of Covid-19 or outbreaks and epidemics that have ravaged the World and Africa before.
But On November 4, 2021, President Yoweri Museveni announced that the government was committed to work towards the development of vaccines against various diseases including Covid-19.
On November 10, 2021, less than a week following the presidential pronouncement, the current Speaker of Parliament Rt Hon Anita Annet Among formulated a select committee of parliament on science, technology and innovation to investigate allegations of irregularities related to the utilization of funds for Covid-19 vaccine development.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni had earlier launched clinical trials for UBV-01N covid-19 drug 2021-09-01T05:03:52.425Z. The Covid-19 treatment drug which is a home grown Natural treatment drug product innovated and developed by Ugandan Scientists in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Makerere University of Public Health and Mulago hospital among other stakeholders.
A major breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus, the President congratulated the Ugandan scientists involved in the innovation, pledging to prioritize support for science innovation in this term of office.
He said that Ugandans must work towards building an independent Uganda which does not depend on outsiders for vaccines.
Following the presidential pronouncement, Dr Monica Musenero Masanza, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation while in Parliament, made a case for the pathogen economy research as a viable sector for investment in Uganda.
“It is globally agreed that when Covid-19 became a pandemic there was no rule book on how to handle it. The good efforts of this government managed to protect Ugandans against the deadly effect even in the face of developed countries hoarding the vaccines they had developed using their scientists,” she said.
An initiative called The Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics(PRESIDE) was then started to promote Ugandan scientists to develop vaccines and other products that can shield the country in the future and reduce her reliance on foreign countries.
After months of rigorous investigation, the Parliamentary select committee correctly concluded that the need to develop the pathogen economy is viable in order to protect the Ugandans against pandemics now and in the future.
PRESIDE was meant to complement and not replace ongoing efforts by the different sectors, focusing on specific priority areas identified and approved by the President.
The relevant sectors were expected to continue with their strategic, regulatory and oversight initiatives.
PRESIDE was designed to provide a supportive rather than obstructive environment for the Ugandan scientists.
Dr Musenero said it is important that Members of Parliament should take note that, Africa is the biggest consumer of vaccines due to high number of diseases outbreaks.
She pointed out that currently, 99% of vaccines consumed in Africa are imported.
This means that Africa only manufactures 1% of the vaccines it consumes.
“The Ebola epidemic in West Africa demonstrated the serious, and unanticipated economic toll of an emerging infectious disease. From 2013 to 2014, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in Liberia decreased from 8.7% to 0.7%, due to Ebola and lowering commodity prices, and GDP growth in Sierra Leone (excluding iron ore) decreased from 5.3% to 0.8% . GDP growth in Guinea in 2015, predicted at 4%, fell to 0.1%,” she explained.
Dr Musenero concluded: “We cannot predict which pathogen will spur the next major epidemic, where that epidemic will originate, or how dire the consequences will be. But as long as humans and infectious pathogens coexist, outbreaks and epidemics are certain to occur and to impose significant costs. The upside is that we can take proactive steps to manage the risk of epidemics and mitigate their impact.”