A Democracy and Development Fellow at CDD-Ghana, Dr. Derrick Edem Akpalu, says the continuous protests and strong pushbacks that clinical trials receive in the country are as a result of a general information gap.
His assertions come on the back of mixed reactions characterised with scepticism and suspicion that met the launch of the world’s first malaria vaccine pilot programme in Ghana early this year,
The experienced clinical researcher was contributing as the lead discussant in a roundtable discussion organized by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), on the role of Digital and Social Media in improving clinical trial notions in Ghana.
Members of the discussion panel included Clinical Research Coordinator at the Noguchi Memorial Institute, Dr Susan Adu-Amankwah, Deputy Registrar at the Medical and Dental Council, Dr Divine Ndonbi Banyubala and the multiple-award winning health blogger and mental health practitioner, Kelvin Odnkor (Kobby Blay).
Dr Akpalu addressing participants said Ghanaians lack both vital and basic knowledge in the form of information on what clinical trials are, and what they are meant to achieve.
Citing a recent occurrence, he explained that the lack of information related to the malaria vaccine launch did not help the public in making informed decisions, resulting in people making incorrect assertions, especially on social media.
Giving some details he said, “people did not know that the vaccine that was being looked at had been in development for thirty years, people did not know that this drug has been tested in other ways and had gone through a series of tests.”
He wondered what the situation would have been if all the details regarding the vaccine were made available to the public.
He called for the need to engage the public on issues related to clinical trials and the need for stakeholders to build “mutualistic relationships.”
On social media, Dr Akpalu said, health practitioners need to build their brand on social media, as he sees social media as a resource for practitioners to lead in the provision of accurate information for would be participants and the general public on clinical trials.