Minister lauds international conference on human and animal vaccines at UP

Posted on February 03, 2014

Minister Hanekom was one of the speakers during the opening session of an international conference on Animal and Human Vaccine Development in South Africa. The three-day conference – where more than two dozen local and international researchers joined industry leaders in animal and human health as well as important research funders – was aimed at taking a critical look at vaccines and vaccine development on the continent. The conference concluded on Saturday.

Topics like the status and way forward for HIV and tuberculosis vaccines, vaccine manufacturing capability in Africa and the state of vaccines and diagnostics for animal diseases are on the agenda.

Also emphasised from the outset was the need for collaboration between different universities, government and industry. The minister thanked the organisers of the event – Prof Bob Millar, Director of the Mammal Research Institute, Prof Gerry Swan, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at UP as well as Prof Marc van Regenmortel from the University of Strasbourg – for the role such a conference can play in this.

Minister Hanekom referred to the success of vaccine development over decades due to global investment, with vaccines for yellow fever, measles, mumps, hepatitis A and B, rabies and tetanus saving millions of lives every year, as well as millions in health-care expenses.

“The basic research and product development work that go into the development of new vaccines, and the roll-out of vaccination programmes, are hugely cost-effective from both a public health and livestock industry perspective. But in South Africa we have tended to under-invest in them. Vaccine development has been seen as a so-called grudge purchase, much like insurance,” Mr Hanekom said.

According to him the need for South Africa to up our game in terms of investing in vaccine development, was recognised due to the NIV/Aids and Tuberculosis pandemics.

“The Aids epidemic has also brought home the reality that vaccine development is a long-term process that requires, among other things, dedicated scientists, up-to-date infrastructure, a supportive funding environment, an effective institutional set-up, and a proper balance between basic research, on the one hand, and product development, on the other. These conditions do not occur by chance. They require deliberate and careful strategizing, combined with persistence and commitment,” he said.

He mentioned projects and collaborations of which the country can be proud. “Together with the Technology Innovation Agency, the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council and the National Research Foundation, among others, the Department of Science and Technology is playing its role in supporting these developments, for example through the recently launched Bio-economy Strategy.

“However, we still have a way to go. Currently, South Africa lacks a coherent, far-sighted, strategic national vaccine plan, and this leaves vaccine development programmes struggling to compete for resources against the many other pressing needs of our young democracy.”

He said such a plan should take into account the complexity of the vaccine research and development process is such that it necessarily involves multiple institutions and activities. It should also recognize that the South African market is too small to support a cutting-edge vaccine industry on its own and that we should forge links with the rest of the continent, making sure that we treat other African countries not just as a market, but as co-creators and beneficiaries. “With diseases failing to respect national borders, our vaccine strategy will need an international dimension,” he said.

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2024. All rights reserved.

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences