Whole genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is essential for developing a vaccine, but it can only be effective if multiple countries across the world contribute to putting together its genetic fingerprint, or genome sequence, as the virus mutates into different strains based on the different populations it infects.
A Future Vaccine Could Prove Much Less Effective in Africa
Africa and South America have been lagging significantly behind Europe and North America when it comes to genome sequencing, meaning a future vaccine could prove much less effective on these continents than elsewhere. Only six African countries have contributed 90 genome sequences out of the global total of nearly 7,700 as of April 13.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has contributed nearly half of those 90 genome sequences.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has contributed nearly half of those 90 genome sequences, a result of its continued collaboration with international bodies like the World Health Organization and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while dealing with the Ebola outbreak since 2018. This demonstrates the importance of international assistance for Africa to successfully manage the pandemic.
As African healthcare systems face the possibility of becoming overwhelmed by the number of cases, most health authorities have opted to commit their limited resources to testing instead of genome sequencing, even in countries with world-class medical institutions such as Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, and South Africa.