South Africa on Monday launched the country’s third COVID-19 vaccine trial, which tests whether an experimental vaccine can protect people from contracting the novel coronavirus or developing serious symptoms.
Phase 3 ENSEMBLE trial with Janssen Pharmaceutica, owned by American multinational corporation Johnson & Johnson, is expected to enrol 60,000 adult volunteers.
It will be a large-scale, randomized, double-blinded and placebo-controlled trial, which will include those over 60 years of age and people with underlying health conditions such as those infected with HIV and on stable medication.
The advocacy group African Alliance and partner the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group said the new vaccine trial is another crucial step in ensuring a future vaccine which works for South Africans.
“Today, South African scientists’ leading role in COVID-19 vaccine research takes us a step closer in ensuring that history doesn’t repeat itself in this pandemic. Historically, Africa has had to wait too long to get medicines and vaccines that the Global North long took for granted for many reasons — including a lack of local data from Africa,” said Tian Johnson, head of African Alliance and founding member of the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group.
He pointed out that they want to ensure that civil society and communities are meaningfully involved in vaccine research, development and access.
“The world desperately needs effective vaccines and medicines to treat COVID-19 and the quest to develop these has pushed science to find new and faster ways of finding them. But in the rush to find effective solutions to COVID-19, we cannot afford to leave communities behind, and their involvement cannot be an afterthought for researchers,” Johnson said.
South Africa is now one of nine countries, including the United States, Argentina and Mexico, which are testing the vaccine.