COVID-19 General

Mali takes part in global launch of Solidarity Trial Vaccines

Today, Mali joins the nations of Colombia and The Philippines in celebrating the official global launch of the Solidarity Trial Vaccines (STV), a large international randomised clinical study coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), together with national ministries of health, to rapidly test new promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

COVID-19 is one of the biggest health and economic threats the world has seen in decades. The rapid development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is a remarkable scientific achievement, but many countries do not have access to these vaccines or do not have enough doses to protect their populations: the world needs more vaccines to protect everyone, wherever the live, from the virus and all its variants. The STV trial has a critical role to play in testing new vaccines for COVID-19.

All candidate vaccines in the trial have been carefully selected by leading international experts, after first trial phases showed their potential to be safe and effective. Initial results from the trial could be ready by early 2022, but the study will be ongoing as potential new vaccines are added as and when they pass the WHO’s strict entry criteria.

This trial will help shape history. The people of Mali will make a real difference in finding more safe and effective vaccines to help protect the whole world from COVID-19.

Prof. Samba Sow

In Mali, the STV trial is being coordinated by CVD-Mali in association with the Ministry of Health, and aims to include 40,000 participants throughout the country. Recruitment began in October at a number of trial sites in the Bamako region, and to date over 4,200 volunteers have enrolled.

“This is a very important trial for Mali, and for Africa” said Prof. Samba Sow, Director General of CVD-Mali, and the trial’s Principal Investigator. “We are extremely proud to take part, as this trial will help shape history. The people of Mali will make a real difference in finding more safe and effective vaccines to help protect the whole world from COVID-19.”

COVID-19 General

Prof. Samba Sow speaks at the Forum Galien Africa

Professor Samba Sow, Director-General of CVD-Mali, today addressed attendees at the 4th Forum Galien Africa in Dakar, Senegal.

During a panel entitled AFRICA MOBILIZES FOR GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY, Prof. Sow discussed the issue of Crisis Communication, or Risk Communication and Community Engagement.

Asked how he sees the role of the African scientific community in communication, misinformation or mistrust, Prof. Sow replied:

In order to solve this problem, we must first of all make an effort to understand the causes of people’s mistrust, whether they are cultural, economic or specific to a particular region. Above all, we must not make the mistake of ignoring or ignoring the concerns of our fellow citizens. That would be completely counterproductive.

The response must be tailored to the specificities of the population we are seeking to protect. It is by taking into account the particular features of each situation that we will be most likely to convince and save lives.

I want to emphasise this point. We are talking about saving millions of lives on the African continent. That is why we need to join forces with all stakeholders to protect their communities: politicians, opinion leaders, to engage in dialogue with citizens on the basis of scientific data.

Without hiding the risks, but presenting a state of the art of the situation.

That is why we call on all trusted people in their communities to support scientists and health workers in this global effort to protect people.

It is by engaging in discussion with the population that we will be able to convince our interlocutors. By presenting them with the scientific data accumulated over decades through the press, through social networks, through the voices of trusted leaders, we will overcome false information. This is what we are working on in the African Voices of Science initiative.

We have put together a clear message based on the best available science, and we are now working to convince leaders and people across Africa.

But scientific collaboration is also about capacity. We need to be able to produce the vaccines and treatments ourselves. In this way, we can not only be more effective in rolling out vaccine coverage, but we can also manage these programmes independently.

Improving the overall quality of our health systems now will have a very beneficial effect on people’s confidence in health interventions.

We are at a critical juncture and African governments should do everything possible to support the scientific community’s effort as quickly as possible.

Finally, it will be the results that speak for themselves. When it becomes clear to everyone that vaccinated people get sick less often, are less severely affected, and are less likely to lose their lives.

Our case for immunization will become more audible as its benefits become more apparent in communities. That’s why we need to do everything we can to expand immunization to all populations, and demonstrate its protective benefits locally.

The importance of effective communication can never be underestimated. It has taken time, patience and close collaboration with these communities to overcome fears and misunderstandings.

The COVID-19 vaccines will require the same patience and commitment. The African Voices of Science initiative was created to address this challenge.”

The Forum Galien Africa is an initiative of the Galien Foundation. Founded in France 50 years ago by pharmacist Roland Mehl in honor of Galen, the father of medical science and modern pharmacology, the Prix Galien supports, recognizes and awards the efforts of scientists, researchers and companies committed to advancing medical innovation with the power to change the human condition. Worldwide, the Prix Galien is regarded as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in biopharmaceutical research.

COVID-19 General

Prof. Samba Sow receives Speak Up Africa Award

We are very pleased to announce that Professor Samba Sow, Director General of CVD-Mali, has been awarded the Speak Up Africa Leadership Award for 2021.

Launched in 2019, this award aims to recognise and celebrate institutions and individuals who demonstrate exemplary leadership in sustainable development and whose initiatives are having a positive impact on the African continent.

Receiving his award, Professor Sow said:

I thank Speak Up Africa for the 2021 Leadership Award.

It is a pleasure to collaborate with an organisation that shares my values, and which highlights talented African Voices of Science in the four corners of our continent.

Only when all sectors of society work together and pull in the same direction will we achieve our common goals.

According to CDC Africa, Africa currently produces only 1% of the vaccines needed by its 1.3 billion people. This has to change.

Prof. Samba Sow

The other recipients of the 2021 award are Mr Serigne Mbaye Thiam, Minister of Water and Sanitation in Senegal, Ms Sarah Diouf, Founder and Creative Director of Tongoro, Mr Harouna Drabo, a Journalist in Burkina Faso and Dr Odry Agbessy, President of the VIA-ME organisation.

Based in Dakar, Senegal, Speak Up Africa is a non-profit strategic communications and advocacy organisation dedicated to catalysing African leadership, promoting policy change and raising awareness based on sustainable development in Africa.

Putting the improvement of public health at the heart of its work, Speak Up Africa supports the achievement of SDGs 1-6, which include the transformation of African societies and ensuring that every man, woman and child is able to live a long and healthy life.

Heartfelt thanks to the teams at Speak Up Africa and CVD-Mali!


Solidarity Trial Vaccines to combat Covid-19 launched in Mali

WHO and the Ministries of Health of Colombia, Mali and the Philippines have announced the official launch of the Solidarity Trial Vaccines study.

CVD-Mali is very proud to manage and implement the trial in Mali on behalf of the national government.

Solidarity Trial Vaccines is an international randomised clinical trial platform designed to rapidly evaluate the efficacy and safety of new candidate vaccines.

These promising vaccines were selected by an independent vaccine prioritisation advisory group, consisting of leading scientists and experts, and the study has received approval from all regulatory authorities and ethics committees in Mali.

Researchers in Mali have therefore begun recruiting volunteers for the trial, which will soon be expanded to include multiple sites in the country.

COVID-19 General

Prof Sow and CVD-Mali receive dual honours!

We are extremely pleased to announce that CVD-Mali’s Director General, Professor Samba Sow, has today been honoured both by the Government of Mali and the prestigious National Academy of Medicine (USA) for work in public health and emergency preparedness.

In a ceremony in Bamako today, Prof Sow was made a Commander of the National Order of Mali.

Prime Minister and Head of the National Order of Mali, Choguel Kokalla Maïga, presents Professor Sow with his award

It was also announced that Prof Sow has been elected to the United States’ National Academy of Medicine,

for groundbreaking vaccine field studies … pioneering studies of disease burden and etiology … and leadership in control of emerging infections (Ebola, COVID-19) in Mali and West Africa.

All at CVD-Mali congratulate him warmly – and Professor Sow in turn is proud to accept both awards on behalf of the dedicated and devoted CVD-Mali family in its entirety.


COVID-19 General

Watch: Professor Samba Sow addresses WHO press conference

On Wednesday 11 August 2021, Professor Samba Sow, Director General of CVD-Mali, had the pleasure of addressing the WHO’s press conference to introduce the global Solidarity PLUS trial.

Solidarity PLUS is a new, large-scale study to trial new therapeutics to combat COVID-19 and prevent deaths in patients hospitalized and suffering severe cases of the disease.

You can read more about the Solidarity PLUS trial here.

COVID-19 General

CVD-Mali joins global WHO Solidarity trial

CVD-Mali and the Malian government are delighted to be taking part in WHO’s global trial of new therapeutic treatments for COVID-19.

The Solidarity PLUS trial for promising drugs will be conducted in 52 countries worldwide and is an unprecedented global collaboration for COVID-19 research and development.

The Solidarity therapeutics trial will recruit patients in hospital with COVID-19 in order to test three new drugs.

The therapies were selected by an independent expert panel and have the potential to reduce mortality rates as a result of COVID-19. The three treatments – artesunate, imatinib and infliximab – are established treatments for other diseases. Artesunate is prescribed for severe malaria, imatinib is used to treat certain cancers, and infliximab is often used to treat conditions like Crohn’s Disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

All trial drugs were donated by the manufacturers.

Reacting to the news that Mali would play a central role in the Solidarity PLUS trial, Prof Samba Sow said, “Trials such as the Solidarity PLUS therapeutics trial by WHO are critical.

This increased capacity will ensure we are well placed in Africa to carry on developing the drugs and vaccines that are so necessary – now and in the future.

Prof Samba Sow

“In my career, in vaccine development and research, I have seen the capacity of African researchers and they have a contribution to make now more than ever in solving this puzzle for Africa and the world.

“I am very grateful to WHO and other partners for seeing this opportunity to build capacity and for investment to do so. This increased capacity will ensure we are well placed in Africa to carry on developing the drugs and vaccines that are so necessary – now and in the future.”

The Solidarity PLUS trial is one of the biggest ever global collaborations of its kind, confirming what Prof Sow and the other WHO Special Envoys have long been saying – namely that until everyone is safe from disease, and Covid-19 in particular, no one is.

“In the fight against infectious diseases, a country – even a continent – cannot succeed alone. We will only succeed if we stand and work together,” Professor Sow said.

Click here to watch Prof Sow address the press conference introducing the WHO Solidarity PLUS therapeutics trial, introduced by WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.


WHO Special Envoys on Covid-19 advocate for vaccine equity

Professor Samba Sow and the other WHO Special Envoys on COVID-19 recently published an important call for vaccine equity in a number of leading global publications.

Their analysis is available in French, Arabic, Spanish and other languages and can be read in English on the website of The Guardian newspaper here.

COVID-19 General

Plea for equitable vaccination!

The COVID-19 pandemic in Africa has arrived at a critical point. We are seeing increases in deaths and overwhelmed health systems, in countries that often lack the infrastructure to properly record cases and respond.

I see on the ground the toll all this is taking – on communities, on health workers and on vulnerable populations. West Africa is also dealing with more than one epidemic; as well as COVID-19, we have an ongoing security epidemic and the threat of another Ebola epidemic. COVID-19 has left us exposed and that increases the chances of other health threats snowballing and costing us at least a decade or more of progress.

But there are green shoots of hope. Not the least of which is the incredible efficiency with which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed. These are incredible and inspiring achievements, and a lesson in global collaboration. But this spirit of collaboration is still needed as we move now to the crucial vaccine roll-out.

COVID-19 General

Reflections on 2020

There has not been much time for reflection this year, it has been a year of crisis and action. However, as well as carrying out our work, it is important too to take some time to pause and reflect.

COVID-19 has affected the world in ways we could never have predicted, and it has been a challenge to us all, whoever and wherever we are.

If there was ever a clear sign of the need to move towards global equity, it is COVID-19

Prof Samba Sow

It has not affected us all equally, however – we are not all in the same boat, as they say. We may all be buffeted by the same great waves of this disease, but we have very different boats in which to try and navigate them. Some have yachts, some dinghies, while some are clinging on to a piece of driftwood. If there was ever a clear sign of the need to move towards global equity, it is COVID-19. Poverty exacerbates COVID-19 and COVID-19 is going to exacerbate poverty. It is estimated that the pandemic will push an additional 88 – 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million people by 2021, depending on the severity of economic contractions. These people will be more vulnerable to further disease. And this must be reflected as vaccine distribution starts.

As a global community, we must resolve to invest in primary health care and the basic principle of health for all

Prof Samba Sow

For many years I have believed that primary health care and universal health coverage are the keys to delivering health for all. COVID-19 has only strengthened that belief – primary health care is the only way to ensure all our communities have access to routine and lifesaving healthcare. Without strong primary health care, there is no way to overcome this pandemic, to deliver vaccines, to overcome dangerous anti-science and anti-medical opinions, and to build better systems for all. It really is as simple as that. As a global community, we must resolve to invest in primary health care and the basic principle of health for all.

This year, we have seen health being used as a political commodity. This time of crisis has battered entire countries and their populations. The right to health is a fundamental tenet of our human rights and of our understanding of life lived in dignity. As we struggle to make sense of the events of this year, that we remember and act on this principle is my one hope.

2020 has been a uniquely difficult year – but there has also been cause for celebration. The unity and solidarity shown, under WHO’s leadership, in the development of tests, vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 has been inspirational. It has clearly shown how much stronger we are when we act together.

The new year promises to be every bit as challenging as 2020. That makes it more important than ever that we rest, with family and loved ones, over this holiday season, that we may face whatever 2021 has in store refreshed and with renewed strength and unity.

With that, I wish you all, partners, friends and colleagues, a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.

Samba O Sow, Director General, CVD-Mali