Home News SA being part of Covid-19 vaccine trial is an ‘exciting development’

SA being part of Covid-19 vaccine trial is an ‘exciting development’

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The study is being conducted at metropoles where Covid-19 infections are high and will most likely be conducted in Cape Town over the next few weeks.

South Africa is one of a few countries chosen to participate in a vaccine trial developed by Oxford University in the UK, as the race to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 hots up. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

Cape Town – South Africa is one of a few countries chosen to participate in a vaccine trial developed by Oxford University in the UK, as the race to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 hots up.

At a virtual media briefing on Tuesday, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg said the first participants in South Africa’s first clinical trial for a vaccine against Covid-19 would be vaccinated today at sites in Gauteng.

The study is being conducted at metropoles where Covid-19 infections are high and will most likely be conducted in Cape Town over the next few weeks.

The study aims to enrol 1950 volunteers aged between 18 and 65, and who are HIV negative. The trial will also enrol a group of 50 people living with HIV to examine how well they respond to the vaccine.

Participants will be given an electronic diary to record any symptoms experienced for seven days after receiving the vaccine and if they feel unwell for the following three weeks.

The ChAdOx1-Cov19 vaccine is one of five vaccines currently in the clinical phase in humans, with the studies mainly being done in China, the US, UK, Australia and Europe.

The South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial aims to find a vaccine that will prevent infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, said Wits in a statement.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the country has reported 101 590 confirmed Covid-19 infections, 53 444 recoveries, 46 155 active cases and 1 991 deaths in the region.

Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at Wits and the director of the South Africa Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit, leads the South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial.

This follows a partnership with the University of Oxford and the Oxford Jenner Institute. The vaccine was developed at the Oxford Jenner Institute and is currently on trial in the UK, with 4 000 participants enrolled and a further 10000 expected. The vaccine used in the South African trial is the same as that used in the UK and Brazil trials.

“This is a landmark moment for South Africa and Africa at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. As we enter winter and pressure increases on public hospitals, now more than ever we need a vaccine to prevent infection by Covid-19,” said Madhi at the launch.

The trial will run at multiple sites across the country.

The vice-principal and deputy vice-chancellor in Research and Postgraduate Affairs at Wits, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, said: “Vaccines are among the most powerful tools to mitigate life-threatening diseases. Without a vaccine against Covid-19, there will likely be ongoing contagion, causing severe illness and death.

“Wits is committed to developing a vaccine to save lives in collaboration with the University of Oxford,” Vilakazi said.

According to Wits, the vaccines have proved to be safe and well-tolerated. However, they may cause temporary side-effects, such as a high temperature, headache or a sore arm.

“As the world rallies to find health solutions, a South African endeavour for the development of an effective Covid-19 vaccine is testament to our commitment of supporting health-care innovation to save lives,” said the president and chief executive of the South African Medical Research Council, Professor Glenda Gray.

Dr Sandile Buthelezi, director general of health in the National Department of Health, said: “The National Department of Health is excited at the launch of this vaccine trial, which will go a long way to cement South Africa’s leadership in the scientific space. With Covid-19 infections increasing every day, the development of the vaccine will be the last solution in the long term, and we are fully behind the team leading this trial.”

Western Cape Health Department Head Dr Keith Cloete said: “This is a very exciting development for South Africa, affirming the high standard of scientific and research capabilities in this country. We wish Professor Madhi and his team well on this important endeavour as ambassadors for our country.”

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