Africa may have COVID-19 vaccine by early 2021: South Africa trial lead

A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country’s first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Africa could have a COVID-19 vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 in the ongoing human trials in South Africa are successful, a university professor heading the trials said on Thursday.

The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 experimental vaccine is one of 19 being tested on humans globally as the world looks to beat the pandemic.

The potential vaccine is also being tested in Brazil by Oxford University scientists who are working with British drugmaker AstraZeneca on development and production.

“A vaccine could be made commercial as early as the beginning of next year,” Reuters quotes Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at University of Witwatersrand who is leading the South African trial.

“But it is completely dependent on the results of clinical trials,” he cautioned, adding that out of the 19 potential vaccines being tried out, the most positive outcome would be if even two succeed.

By Thursday afternoon, the world’s COVID-19 infections had surpassed 12 million, with more than 550,000 deaths.

The vaccine trials involve 2,000 volunteers aged between 18-65, who will be monitored for 12 months after vaccination so as to assess its efficacy.

“The timing of an efficacy read-out depends on when we have approximately 42 Covid-19 cases at least one month after vaccination,” he said.

The development comes as the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the “pandemic is getting full speed” in Africa.

The continent has reported more than 527,000 cases and over 12,200 deaths, even as health experts sound the alarm on rising daily new infections.

Madhi said governments must put in an upfront purchase order for the potential vaccine.