Home International Covid-19 vaccine trials under way, experts plan for distribution

Covid-19 vaccine trials under way, experts plan for distribution

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World Health Organization (WHO) Africa press briefing gives an update on Covid-19 and vaccine development in Africa

File picture: Ayanda Ndamane / African News Agency

AFRICA is ready for the mass production of a vaccine should one become available, said participants at a World Health Organization (WHO) Africa press briefing.

The briefing was held to give an update on Covid-19 and vaccine development in Africa.

WHO Africa regional director Dr Matshidiso Moeti; SA Medical Research Council director and lead investigator in the South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine Vida trial, Professor Shabir Madhi; and Medical Research Council director Uganda Virus Research Institute, Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, participated in the briefing.

The announcement of the South African OxCov19 vaccine Vida trial was made during a Wits University press conference on June 22.

The trial is under way at three sites in Gauteng with further sites proposed in the Western Cape.

South Africa is one of the first African countries to have joined the international community in its search for a Covid-19 vaccine.

As of Thursday, the African continent surpassed 500 000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, said Dr Moeti.

This comes as governments ease lockdown regulations and economic activities resume.

“It’s more important than ever that public health measures are scaled up. The involvement of people is important. We can expect the virus to circulate until there is a vaccine,” said Moeti.

She said the potential logistical and service delivery challenges must be overcome.

“We know that when we have a vaccine, it will need to be rolled out at a high speed and scale. Too often, Africa has been in the back seat with regards to vaccines. A successful Covid-19 vaccine would be a global public good.”

Moeti said the government, private sector, and civil society had been included in talks to create equitable access to the vaccine.

South Africa, Senegal, Ethiopia, as well as many North African countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia, had the capacity for vaccine production, she added.

Professor Madhi said South Africa had reached out to Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, which is currently leading the trials, and expressed interest in participating. He said the funding for the trials was not coming from the university, but rather through the SA Medical Research Council and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The trials will see about 2 000 participants for a period of four to six weeks in the study.

He said that due to the high rate of transmission in South Africa, the result of the trials would probably be known in November or December.

Participants’ ages ranged from 18-65 years, and they lacked serious underlying medical conditions. Although people with HIV are not excluded from the trials, they are mainly focused on individuals who are HIV-negative.

AstraZeneca would be the main manufacturer of the vaccine and billions of doses would be needed, said Madhi.