Africa’s first trials for COVID-19 vaccine begin in South Africa

A scientist works at the manufacturing laboratory where a vaccine against the COVID-19 has been produced at the Oxford Vaccine Group’s facility at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, UK, June 24, 2020. Steve Parsons/Pool via REUTERS

Oxford University has partnered with South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand to launch Africa’s first human trials for a potential COVID019 vaccine

The project was started on Wednesday as infections continue to rise in the continent, with South Africa bearing the biggest brunt.

Reuters reports that the trial will consist of 2,000 volunteers from 18 to 65 years of age, including some HIV positive patients, who will be monitored for 12 months after vaccination to asses how well the vaccine guards against COVID-19.

“Once 60% of the population, especially the adult population, becomes immune, we expect that effective reproductive rate to go under 1, which basically means the virus will still be around, it will still circulate, but its chain of transmission has been interrupted,” Reuters quotes Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at Wits University and leader of the trial.

The project comes following an African Union endorsement of a need for Africa to develop a framework for the continent to actively engage in the development and access to potential effective COVID-19 vaccines.

South Africa is the worst affected country in Africa by the COVID-19 pandemic, having reported 111,796 infections and 2,205 deaths.

The continent has reported more than 339,000 cases and over 8,800 deaths, pointing to the grave situation in South Africa.

South Africa is the second country outside of the United Kingdom to take part in the Oxford trial after Brazil launched its study on Wednesday. The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, also known as AZD1222, was originally developed by Oxford University scientists, who are now working with AstraZeneca on development and production.

There are over 4,000 participants enrolled in the UK, with enrollment of an additional 10,000 participants planned, the university said in a statement on Wednesday.

A larger study of the same vaccine in up to 30,000 participants is planned in the United States.