SWITZERLAND, JUNE 25 – As South Africa grapples with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Africa, a university research body in the country has announced that it will begin its first clinical trial for a vaccine this week.
Speaking during a virtual news conference hosted at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, some researchers mentioned that participants from across Africa will be vaccinated in the South African-led trial,
Leading the trial is Shabir Madhi, a Professor of Vaccinology at Wits University and director of the South Africa Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (VIDA).
According to Madhi “We began screening participants for the South African Oxford 1 COVID-19 vaccine trial last week and the first participants will be vaccinated this week.”
The school is collaborating with the University of Oxford and the Oxford Jenner Institute on the trial.
The vaccine being used in the trial is the same one used in the UK and Brazil, according to a statement posted on Wits’ website.
Meanwhile, Brazil is planning its own pilot, while the United States is preparing to test another vaccine in a mass trial of up to 30,000 participants.
South Africa is the worst-hit country on the continent with over 100,000 cases and about 2000 deaths. Health officials in the country have warned of a surge in infections in the coming days. At least 53,444 people have recovered from COVID-19 in the country, which translates to a recovery rate of 52.6%.
Officials implemented a strict nationwide lockdown on March 27, just weeks after the virus first hit South Africa.
However. confinement measures are being gradually phased out to allow businesses pick up and limit damage to an already ailing economy.
“As we enter winter in South Africa and pressure increases on public hospitals, now more than ever we need a vaccine to prevent infection by COVID-19,” Madhi added, describing the vaccine trial as a “landmark moment” for the country.