The School of Public Health of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in collaboration with the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), is to manufacture typhoid vaccines in the country.
A manufacturing and trial centre, the KNUST-IVI Collaborating Centre, has been built on the premises of the Agogo Presbyterian Hospital in Agogo in the Asante Akim North District in the Ashanti Region to facilitate the research programme.
The trial will generate additional data to support decision-making and the management of typhoid fever and other causes of fever in the sub-region and will further develop solutions to counter poverty-related diseases with a huge economic impact in the sub-region.
The programme is being funded by European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Vice-Chancellor of the KNUST, Professor Mrs Rita Akosua Dickson, opened the facility in Agogo last Monday.
Present were the Deputy Minister of Health, Alhaji Asei Mahama Seini; the Presidential Adviser on Health, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, and a Principal Research Associate, University of Cambridge, and Deputy Director-General of the IVI, Dr Florian Marks.
According to Prof. Dickson, the state-of-the-art centre was the first of its kind initiated by the IVI for joint research, development and capacity-building activities to achieve regional health objectives, as well as UN global goals.
“The centre will be a research and training site to implement ongoing and new collaborative projects, including disease surveillance, vaccine clinical development, vaccination campaigns, vaccine effectiveness and health economics studies for infectious diseases prevalent in the region, such as typhoid and invasive non-typhoidal salmonella,” she added.
The trial, she said, was being conducted by a team of scientists led by Prof. Ellis Owusu-Dabo (principal investigator) of the School of Public Health, KNUST, and in Korea by Dr Marks, Deputy Director-General, Epidemiology, Public Health and Impact (EPIC), at the IVI, South Korea, with high-level strategic input and support from other collaborating institutions.
The institutions include the University of Cambridge, Foundation Merieux, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso and Madagascar, with the Agogo Presbyterian Hospital as the trial site for Ghana.
Prof. Dickson said following the opening of the centre, it would begin a mass vaccination campaign as a consortium member of the Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine Introduction in Africa (THECA) programme.
“This aims to assess the effectiveness of a typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) through two clinical studies, including a cluster-randomised trial in Ghana, to support the introduction of TCV into routine immunisation programmes in typhoid-endemic countries in Africa,” she added.
For his part, Dr Nsiah-Asare commended KNUST for being a trailblazer in the country’s quest to manufacture vaccines locally.
He expressed appreciation to the funders, the EDCTP and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for their continuous support to the country.
Typhoid fever is caused by bacteria in several low-and middle-income countries, including Ghana, and has been responsible for over 160,000 deaths annually, mainly affecting children under 16 years, globally.
The difficult diagnosis and increasing antibiotic resistance call for an effective vaccine, in addition to conventional ways of managing and controlling diarrhoea diseases, including but not limited to good hygiene, better sanitation practices and supply of potable water.
The IVI is a non-profit, inter-governmental organisation established in 1997, at the initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
It has 36 signatory countries and the World Health Organisation (WHO) on its treaty, including Korea, Sweden, India and Finland as state funders.