The introduction of genomics and biobanking methodologies to the African research context has also introduced novel ways of doing science, based on values of sharing and reuse of data and samples. This shift raises ethical challenges that need to be considered when research is reviewed by ethics committees, relating for instance to broad consent, the feedback of individual genetic findings, and regulation of secondary sample access and use. Yet existing ethics guidelines and regulations in Africa do not successfully regulate research (...) based on sharing, causing confusion about what is allowed, where and when. In order to understand better the ethics regulatory landscape around genomic research and biobanking, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of existing ethics guidelines, policies and other similar sources. We sourced 30 ethics regulatory documents from 22 African countries. We used software that assists with qualitative data analysis to conduct a thematic analysis of these documents. Surprisingly considering how contentious broad consent is in Africa, we found that most countries allow the use of this consent model, with its use banned in only three of the countries we investigated. In a likely response to fears about exploitation, the export of samples outside of the continent is strictly regulated, sometimes in conjunction with regulations around international collaboration. We also found that whilst an essential and critical component of ensuring ethical best practice in genomics research relates to the governance framework that accompanies sample and data sharing, this was most sparingly covered in the guidelines. There is a need for ethics guidelines in African countries to be adapted to the changing science policy landscape, which increasingly supports principles of openness, storage, sharing and secondary use. Current guidelines are not pertinent to the ethical challenges that such a new orientation raises, and therefore fail to provide accurate guidance to ethics committees and researchers. (shrink)
Community engagement has been recognised as an important aspect of the ethical conduct of biomedical research, especially when research is focused on ethnically or culturally distinct populations. While this is a generally accepted tenet of biomedical research, it is unclear what components are necessary for effective community engagement, particularly in the context of genomic research in Africa.
BackgroundThe global interest in developing therapies for Ebola infection management and its prevention is laudable. However the plan to conduct an emergency immunization program specifically for healthcare workers using experimental vaccines raises some ethical concerns. This paper shares perspectives on these concerns and suggests how some of them may best be addressed.DiscussionThe recruitment of healthcare workers for Ebola vaccine research has challenges. It could result in coercion of initially dissenting healthcare workers to assist in the management of EVD infected persons (...) due to mistaken beliefs that the vaccine offers protection. It could also affect equity and justice. For example, where people who are not skilled health care professionals but who provide care to patients infected with Ebola are not prioritized for vaccination. The possibility of study participants contracting Ebola infection despite the use of experimental vaccine, and the standard of care they would receive, needs to be addressed clearly, transparently and formalized as part of the ethics review process. Future access to study products in view of current status of the TRIPS agreement needs to be addressed. Finally, broad stakeholder engagement at local, regional and international levels needs to be promoted using available communication channels to engage local, regional and international support. These same concerns are applicable for current and future epidemics.SummarySuccessful Ebola vaccine development research requires concerted efforts at public dialogue to address misconceptions, equity and justice in participant selection, and honest discussions about risks, benefits and future access. Public dialogue about Ebola vaccine research plans is crucial and should be conducted by trusted locals and negotiated between communities, researchers and ethics committees in research study sites. (shrink)
In the past decade, there has been an increase in genomic research and biobanking activities in Africa. Research initiatives such as the Human Heredity and Health in Africa Consortium are contributing to the development of scientific capacity and infrastructure to support these studies on the continent. Despite this growth, genomic research and biobanking have raised important ethical challenges for key research stakeholders, including members of research ethics committees. One of these is the limited ethical and regulatory frameworks to guide the (...) review and conduct of genomic studies, particularly in Africa. This paper is a reflection on a series of consultative activities with research ethics committees in Africa which informed the development of an ethics and governance framework for best practices in genomic research and biobanking in Africa. The paper highlights the engagement process and the lessoned learned. (shrink)
Community engagement in research, including public health related research, is acknowledged as an ethical imperative. While medical care and public health action take priority over research during infectious disease outbreaks, research is still required in order to learn from epidemic responses. The World Health Organisation developed a guide for community engagement during infectious disease epidemics called the Good Participatory Practice for Trials of Emerging (and Re‐emerging) Pathogens that are Likely to Cause Severe Outbreaks in the Near Future and for which (...) Few or No Medical Counter‐Measures Exist (GPP‐EP). This paper identified priorities for community engagement for research conducted during infectious disease outbreaks drawing on discussions held with a purposive sample of bioethicists, social scientists, researchers, policy makers and laypersons who work with ethics committees in West Africa. These perspectives were considered in the light of the GPP‐EP, which adds further depth and dimension to discussions on community engagement frameworks. It concludes that there is no presumptive justification for the exclusion of communities in the design, implementation and monitoring of clinical trials conducted during an infectious disease outbreak. Engagement that facilitates collaboration rather than partnership between researchers and the community during epidemics is acceptable. (shrink)
COVID‐19, caused by a novel coronavirus named SARS‐CoV‐2, was identified in December 2019, in Wuhan, China. It was first confirmed in sub‐Saharan Africa in Nigeria on 27 February 2020 and has since spread quickly to all sub‐Saharan African countries, causing more than 111,309 confirmed cases and 2,498 deaths as of 03 June 2020. The lessons learned during the recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreaks in some sub‐Saharan African countries were expected to shape and influence the region’s responses to COVID‐19 pandemic. (...) However, some of the challenges associated with the management of the EVD outbreaks persist and create obstacles for the effective management of the COVID‐19 pandemic. This article describes the commonalities between the EVD epidemics and COVID‐19 pandemic, with a view to draw on lessons learned to effectively tackle the ongoing pandemic. Key successes, failures and lessons learned from previous EVD outbreaks are discussed. Recommendations on how these lessons can be translated to strengthen the COVID‐19 response in sub‐Saharan Africa are provided. (shrink)