The African Vaccinology Network (AfVANET), born in 2016 during the Keystone Symposia in Cape Town, is a group of researchers headed by a committee of 9 African scientists from the 5 regions (North, South, East, Central and West) of Africa. With their general coordinator being Prof. Mustapha Oumouna of the University of Medea, Algeria, their main goal is to ‘provide African solutions to African problems by;
1. Bringing together all stakeholders in vaccinology and related sciences in Africa;
2. Identifying and prioritizing vaccine gaps in Africa
3. Promoting vaccine research and development in Africa
4. Promoting sound ethics, biosafety and biosecurity in vaccine research in Africa

To that effect, the theme of this 2-day Maiden Workshop was titled ‘A Roadmap for Promoting Effective Vaccine Research and Development in Africa’. The workshop was supported by the International Veterinary Vaccinology Network (IVVN) and hosted at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Nairobi, Kenya.

Activities and ‘Take-Home’ Messages.
Day1 involved introduction of the progress in vaccinology across the 5 regions of Africa represented, amongst which was the talk on “Challenges of Infectious Diseases in the Central Africa sub-region” by Dr. Dinga Jerome Nyhalah of the University of Buea, Cameroon. There were talks also from funding bodies such as IVVN, GALVmed and IDRC. There were poster presentations by Shintouo Cabirou and myself (both from the University of Buea, Cameroon) which enlightened those present, as a good number of our poster visitors had never heard about River Blindness.

Day 1 ended with presentations on vaccine design and development at different African and foreign institutes in collaboration with Africa. The take-home message for day 1 was the importance of cross- country collaboration among African scientists, as this would improve exposure and funding.

L – R; Dr. Mbah, Dr. Dinga and Mr. Shintouo Cabirou

L to R: Dr. Mbah (Buea, Cameroon), Dr. Thema (ARC-OVR, South Africa), Dr. Connelly (Co-director, IVVN, Edinburgh)

Day 2 began with a focus on women in vaccinology, where Dr. Afolayan from University of Ibadan, Nigeria presented on using bio-engineered plants to rapidly increase adjuvants and immunomodulators for infectious diseases. Presentations from South Africa, Tunisia and Senegal, also pointed out the importance of important statistics on vaccine coverage. Day 2 closed with presentations on the progress made in developing a vaccine for malaria, with emphasis on using a cocktail for more efficient results. The take-home message for day 2 was significant progress in vaccine development against malaria. Also, the importance of more care for livestock, especially those consumed by humans as some of the lethal diseases such as trypanosomiasis are transmitted through zoonotic means.

Left: Dr. Dinga giving a talk. Upper Right: Cabirou explaining his research to Drs Thema (female-SA) & Abraham (male-Ethiopia). Lower Right: Dr. Mbah explaining her research to Dr Afolayan (female-Nigeria) & Dr. Dieye (male-Senegal)

Networking was an important part of this conference, and I was able to network with a few people like Drs Connelly & Hamilton (IVVN, UK), Dr Lazarus & Thema (South Africa), Dr. Bettaieb (Tunisia), Dr. Duedu (Ghana) and Drs Afolayan and Akinbobola (Nigeria). After being introduced to Dr. Afolayan by Dr. Dinga, she informed me of the IVVN African Outreach Program and I indicated my interest and took part in the program.

By: Glory Enjong Mbah, PhD