South Africa to begin clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine

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A health department official walks past beds set up at a temporary field hospital up to deal with an expected surge in cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A health department official walks past beds set up at a temporary field hospital at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

South Africa is due to begin clinical trials of a vaccine against the coronavirus on Wednesday as the country grapples with rising infections.

The drug was manufactured at the University of Oxford in the UK.

According to local broadcaster SABC News, about 2,000 people, aged 18-35, will participate in the trials. Half of the participants in the trials will receive the drug while the other half will receive a placebo.

The trial will begin with a group of HIV negative people who will receive two doses of the drug over the course of four weeks.

A group of 50 people are expected to have the drug administered to them on Wednesday by personnel from the Medical Research Council and Wits University.

South Africa has been one of the most proactive countries in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. It implemented one of the fastest and strictest responses as well as being the first country in Africa to develop its own capacity for laboratory testing.

With the number of confirmed cases still rising fast, concern has already been rife about the availability of a vaccine to less developed and poor countries, particularly in Africa.

Helen Rees, the Executive Director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, said that the vaccine, when found, needs to be made available to all citizens of the world but conceded that there might and will have to be prioritization in the vaccine’s distribution at the initial stages.

“Obviously the richer countries and richer areas are trying to say ‘my country first and all of my citizens’ first. There is a very, very important global dialogue going on about vaccine access,” Rees told SABC News.

Last month, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that African countries should get “quick, equal and affordable” access to any vaccine and treatment of COVID-19 once it becomes available.

As of June 22, South Africa, the worst affected country in Africa, reported 97,302 confirmed cases with 1,930 deaths from the deadly virus. The continent has so far reported 306,567 confirmed cases and 8,115 deaths, according to the Africa CDC, as of June 22.

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